Journalistic "Ethics" and the Duke Case, Part 3,453
Legal Writing

VA Tech And Terror

Today's shooting at Virginia Tech left more than 30 people dead, and at least a score more wounded. Although details are only now emerging, there is little doubt that the next week or so will see a mass of expulsions from middle schools and high schools nationwide.

A non sequitur? Yes, as a matter of logic. But not as a matter of experience.

It happens like clockwork in Connecticut. Within 48 hours of a report of school violence on national news, my office gets a couple of calls from parents whose children have been expelled for saying they'd like to beat the bejesus out of a classmate, or punching someone at recess.

A random act of violence yield an almost Pavlovian response among school administrators suffer from the Columbine Effect. They fall back on "zero tolerance" policies and send students home for mere fighting words. Those expelled, and their lawyers, will face hostile decisionmakers determined not to let deadly violence emerge at their facility.

One news account says that the FBI reports there is no evidence that this was an act of terror. I am not sure what this means, because every parent with a child at school cannot help but to feel terrified at the sight of photos taken of wounded students. What heart does not break at the thought of receiving a call about a murdered child? This is terror, whether the violence was meted out for political purposes or not.

I worry that with each round of violence, the scope of what we accept as a reasonable means of assuring our safety expands, leaving less and less room for civil liberties. When I came up in Chicago and Detroit we fought in the schoolyards more than we should of. I don't recall ever being expelled over a bloody nose or a broken pair of glasses.

But times have changed. We now see how easy it is to kill and imagine killers everywhere. We clamp down on the different to avoid danger. New calls for gun control will emerge. We will grasp at a thousand straws hoping to feel safe. But we will never be entirely safe from random acts of savagery.