I can clearly recall the chaos and confusion that was my high school career. It was four long years fraught with new experiences, stress, and uncertainties. There were very high highs and very low lows. Like most American teenagers, I was often overwhelmed with such emotions as love and hate. And like most American teenagers, I had to find outlets for that kind of stress, and I did so with sports, music, art, and volunteering free time. But an article today from the New York Times highlights a new trend that students across the nation are claiming as a new form of stress relief: creating “hit lists.”
Apparently, the practice of creating lists of people they would like to kill has become a sort of therapy for some troubled students. And unfortunately, it seems that students in general are becoming more accepting of the practice. It is prevalent on the Internet as well, and students are posting their hit lists on social networking websites such as Myspace.com, encouraging others to add to them or to make lists of their own. In the article, William Modzeleski, a deputy secretary in the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, was quoted as saying,
“There is a sort of nonchalance about it. . . . Kids see it merely as a prank. They think ‘Yeah, I’m on a list, and Johnny produced it, but he’s just letting his anger out and it will never happen.’”
Except sometimes it does happen. And that’s why this kind of behavior needs to be stopped right here and now. No matter the reason for creating a hit list, the fact is that in many of the worst cases of school violence, such as the Columbine school shooting in 1999 and the shooting at Red Lake High School in Minnesota in 2005, hit lists were involved. For that reason, the creation of hit lists by students, even in jest, must not be tolerated for any reason whatsoever.
The only “benefit” of these hit lists is that students often display them in public, which gives administrators and parents the chance to intervene and either thwart planned attacks or give the students involved the attention they need. Still, the creation of these lists is similar to shouting “fire” in a crowded movie theater, and school administrators should adopt a zero tolerance policy when dealing with them. Students caught creating such lists should receive immediate counseling to establish if they are legitimate dangers. The threat is too real, and the consequences are far too serious to tread lightly around this topic. Students will have to find more productive ways to release their anger.