Two troubling incidents at Mesa junior high schools may indicate a resurgence of violence that thankfully has been on the wane in recent years. In one case a boy brought a gun to school; in another a girl who'd complained of being bullied was attacked by a group of classmates.
The boy who brought the gun to Carson Junior High School told school authorities that he wanted to protect himself and his friends. Meanwhile, the Kino Junior High School girl who was attacked said she had told school authorities about threats but wasn't taken seriously.
For their part, Mesa school and district officials insist they acted properly in each case. Indeed, an alert Carson teacher discovered the gun-toting student and hauled him to the principal's office. And Kino administrators say they take all reports of bullying seriously, and the district has a stringent policy on it that prescribes disciplinary action, including suspension.
Perhaps these are isolated incidents in East Valley schools that have enjoyed a decline in violence and weapons-related offenses in recent years. District spokeswoman Judi Willis told the Tribune's Blake Herzog that “it's been a long time since anybody had a weapon” at school. But just to be on the safe side, these incidents should be a reminder to teachers, administrators and parents that the potential for youthful violence has not been eradicated.
Unfortunately, guns are still within reach of troubled youngsters. Bullying is a real and present danger on school campuses. And let no one forget that in some of the most tragic instances of school violence around the country over the past decade, those who lashed out with weapons said they did so as a perceived last resort after being tormented by fellow students.
That is not to excuse violence. Rather, it points to the need to recognize and act on the fact that youthful minds can sometimes respond in irrational and dangerous ways to schoolyard disputes. Every adult charged with the care and education of youngsters must be alert to that fact, and to telltale signs of strife.
That's a tall order. And it's unreasonable to expect teachers and principals to detect and referee every campus disagreement. But vigilance is essential to preventing escalating disputes from exploding into violence.