In the Spotlight

News & Features
Go to Cold Spring school shooting
DocumentCold Spring school shooting
DocumentShooting breaks out in school
DocumentVeteran teacher called hero
DocumentFriends of alleged shooter think teasing played a part
DocumentWitnesses tell the story
DocumentParents, students examine their relationships
DocumentThe suspect is charged
DocumentStudents return to school
DocumentFar from Cold Spring, students shaken by shooting
DocumentStudy: Deadly lessons. Understanding lethal school violence
Did bullying play a part?
Your Voice
DocumentJoin the conversation with other MPR listeners in the News Forum.

DocumentE-mail this pageDocumentPrint this page
Far from Cold Spring, students shaken by shooting
Larger view
An art class at Richfield High School, where students' thoughts were in Cold Spring (MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire)
The shooting at Rocori High School in Cold Spring is being felt in schools throughout Minnesota. Officials say Wednesday's attack is the state's first fatal shooting carried out by a student inside a school. State law requires school districts to prepare for such violence. School leaders have been busy reviewing those plans today and trying reassure their students.

Richfield, Minn. — In the art room at Richfield High School, students are concentrating on their pottery projects. They're also thinking about the Cold Spring school shooting, and their own personal safety.

Senior Amber Wing says the incident has been a topic of conversation in some of her classes.

Larger view
Image An upsetting topic

"We were talking about it in our English class. And a few of the kids got kind of upset about the issue, so we just had to stop talking about it," she says.

Wing believes a similar shooting could happen anywhere, but she doesn't worry much about security at Richfield High School. Classmate Kent Thompson, another senior, says he, too, feels safe.

"We take all the precautions we can. And we've got security watching out, and all the teachers, they know students pretty well. So, usually they can tell if something's up. But yeah, I feel real safe here. I've been here for three years, nothing's gone wrong yet," Thompson says.

Richfield High School, located in a first-ring Minneapolis suburb, serves 1,300 students in grades nine through 12. Principal Jill Johnson says the shooting at a school 87 miles away required her to take some action. She directed security officers and staff to have a more visible presence in school hallways and be alert. Johnson says she told teachers to discuss the incident only if students wanted to talk.

"We felt the appropriate thing was to kind of low-key it today and not necessarily make a big deal of a lot of it, if it's not what our students needed. But everyone's been concerned about it. It certainly got all of our awareness back up. Maybe we were lulled into a false sense of security, but we're back into reality again," according to Johnson.

Larger view
Image Safe at school

Minnesota schools began tightening security following the 1999 Columbine shootings in Colorado. State law requires all school districts to develop specific plans for dealing with shootings and other emergencies. Many districts also conduct mock disasters to test their plans.

Richfield has its annual training exercise scheduled next month. Jill Johnson says the entire school knows what to do when, and if, they declare a "Code Red."

"If we go into a code red, we go into a lockdown situation, in which the teachers lock their doors and wait for instructions over the intercom," she says.

At Richfield High, a security guard is stationed near the front door. School officials installed new alarms on all other doors. Security cameras are mounted in the hallways. But Johnson says the most important prevention measure her staff can take is getting to know students.

Larger view
Image Just in case...the school is prepared.

"As quickly as possible, I go through the yearbook. I go through the school pictures and start memorizing names. We tell teachers to get seating charts, learn those students names as quickly as possible. And then learn personal things about students. The more we believe that we know about our kids, the more connected they are to the school system and the less likely they are to act out in a dangerous way."

State education officials require school districts to annually report all incidents involving weapons or fights. What doesn't get reported are the near misses.

Charles Kyte of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators says school employees in every district working every day to prevent violence.

"We graduate thousands of students in Minnesota, but within those students are students who are now well adjusted, decent young men and women, who at one time may well have had dangerous or hurtful thoughts. And it's through the prevention efforts that those thoughts never turned into action," according to Kyte.

Kyte says despite a few isolated incidents, schools remain the place where children are the safest.

Respond to this story
News Headlines
Related Subjects