Angst, hormones-to-Mars and grudges against the entire known universe are widespread givens of teenage existence. Put a gun in that equation, though, and you have lethal problems. Last week 15-year-old Andy Williams got so sick of being picked on at school that he went to his suburban San Diego high school and gunned down 15 kids, killing two. Last weekend, a Palmer High senior and sophomore were charged with shooting and cutting the throats of a classmate and his grandparents on New Year's night. Rosy-cheeked kids are turning guns on teachers and schoolmates to exact horrific retribution for wrongs, real or perceived. What's going on?
Palmer High junior
Shook's Run Park
What are Palmer kids saying? Everyone's surprised. It's scary knowing we've been going to school with those kids in the three months since the killings.
What's behind all this violence? Kids are picking up from their parents that guns are good and violence is virtuous if you're mad enough.
Is violence a problem at Palmer? Not that I've seen. There's not even that many fist fights. You see arguments now and then, but not violence.
Would a Ten Commandments plaque help? It wouldn't make the slightest difference, and school isn't the place for that.
What are Palmer kids saying? Not much, but I'm kind of freaked. Isaac Grimes (the 15-year-old Palmer sophomore) was in my world history class. He was a good student. His grades were a lot better than mine.
What pushes kids to such violence? It takes immediate care of a complicated problem.
Is violence increasing at Palmer? Not at all. There's a lot of diversity at Palmer, though, and I see groups of kids putting down other groups of kids sometimes.
Would a Ten Commandments plaque help? It might make a few grownups feel good, but it would be just another plaque on the wall.
What are Palmer kids saying? How creepy it is. I vaguely knew Ed Matheny (the 17-year-old Palmer senior) in junior high, but I never even noticed him at Palmer.
What causes this violence? Kids feel they've reached the last straw and no choices are left. There are other choices, of course, but it doesn't feel like that to them at the moment.
Is violence a problem at Palmer? I hardly see any. I see adults being bigger jerks in those ways than kids. Listen to talk radio some time.
Would a Ten Commandments plaque help? It wouldn't make the slightest difference.
Dublin & Union
What are kids at Palmer saying? Nobody had an inkling. You shrug Columbine off because it's someone else's school, but it really creeps you out when it's your own school. The older sister of the younger kid is in some of my classes.
Why such violence? To get even and demand respect.
Is there violence at Palmer? I see some picking-on, but not violence.
Would a Ten Commandments plaque help? Kids don't think what a plaque tells them to.