Herald and Journal, April 26, 1999

Comments on Littleton: a commitment to talk to our kids

By Mikkel Kelly
Kelly is the managing editor of Westminster Window in Westminster, Colo. and the former editor of the Howard Lake Herald.

Our hearts sank Tuesday afternoon when it was reported at least 25 students had been shot dead at Columbine High School in Littleton.

Although the school is about 30 miles south of my weekly newspaper office in Westminster, it was too close to home.

As an editor, I braced myself thinking 25 dead will probably mean 35. We scrambled to write a reaction piece by deadline, even though I had to send a couple of distraught staffers home.

Later in the evening, the number of reported deaths declined to provide at least some relief to the unrelenting tension and profound sadness.

Although spending per pupil in Colorado ranks around 44th in the nation, the schools are good, and Columbine is one of the better suburban schools.

Frankly, I think Minnesota schools are better, more progressive, but I trust that fact won't make Minnesota complacent.

The Columbine tragedy that has devastated the Denver metro could happen anywhere, as it did all too recently in Springfield, Ore.; Fayetteville, Tenn.; Edinboro, Pa.; Jonesboro, Ark.; and West Paducah, Ky.

I remember the words of Shirley Diers, who operates Diers Plumbing and Heating with her husband and family, while I was editor at the Howard Lake Herald.

In a story about student values and the process of education, she said she was committed to having dinner every evening with the entire family to discuss the day and make sure the issues of the day are being addressed.

She said if all families did this, there would be fewer problems in schools.

This sound idea to live by is one of many I kept with me from my years in Howard Lake. I practice it with my family. It's one way parents can prepare their children properly for school.

Certainly, parents can't do it all and keeping schools accountable is part of their job as well, but parents should set the table by teaching their children what a place of learning should be.

Schools should be a place of learning, not dying.

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