Monday, October 16, 2006


A week ago today, the Mailbox was driving to work, wondering why a KY3 news van followed me all the way to Joplin. The answer revealed itself quickly.

A week ago, 13-year-old Thomas White entered Memorial Middle School with a Mac-90 semi-automatic rifle and threatened to shoot students and faculty. After pointing the gun at two students and telling two administrators, “Don’t make me do this,” Administrator Steve Doerr and principal Stephen Gilbreath coaxed the student out of the school and into the hands of law enforcement. Wally Kennedy’s account in the Joplin Globe is harrowing.

Since then, White has been charged with first degree assault, armed criminal action and making terrorist threats. He will be tried as a juvenile. His father, Gregory White, also faces charges of being a felon in possession of guns.

Memorial students and parents showed their faith in the school: 93 percent of students returned to class the next day.

All in all, Joplin dodged a bullet, because a rifle jammed. Two school officials are heroes, parents are confident with their school’s security and a father and son face charges.

In the aftermath, we found ourselves asking the same question: How could this happen? The Mailbox doesn’t know the correct answer, but thinks it has a clue: parental attention.

Blood could have been shed last week by a 13-year-old -- someone who can be trusted with only the most basic responsibilities. Someone barely a child...too young to be tried as an adult. Someone who figured out how to get a gun from his father’s locked cabinet and sneak it into Memorial Middle School.

Instead of looking around at the youth of America, we should be looking at our own kids. Are we, as parents, doing everything we can to teach them how to make good choices? Are we giving them outlets to vent their frustrations? Are we getting involved with their interests, learning everything we can about them? We all know our kids are capable of achieveing tremendous successes. The Mailbox agrees that the kids who commit these atrocities are rare and far from the norm. But these terrifying close calls show our kids may be just as capable of awful nightmares.

If we can give attention to our children and concentrate on being the best parents we can be, we can dramatically reduce the chances of another school shooting.

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