(Originally appeared in the June 2000 issue of the Liberty High School Sentinel newspaper.)

As I’m sure you all know, another school shooting has recently filled the headlines of newspapers across the country. This time, a popular teacher was shot in front of a classroom full of students in Florida. Another life was taken needlessly by a student who, by all reports, had never been a problem before. Another teenager becomes a murderer. Another school is now in shock and again our country stands by, not knowing what to do.

Since this string of tragedies began traversing the country and burning names like Pearl, Mississippi; West Paducah, Kentucky; Jonesboro, Arkansas; Edinboro, Pennsylvania; Springfield, Oregon; Littleton, Colorado; and now Lake Worth, Florida into our minds, I’ve been trying to come up with a solution. As I usually do, I’ve been trying to think of ways to end this disturbing trend.

Usually, after a while, I tend to come up with something—some kind of crazy master plan to solve the world’s problems. I usually come up with some law to write or thing to do that would fix something that is broken.

This time, however, has been different. I have yet to think of anything that will end this string of killings or push senseless violence our of our society. I have been stumped, and for me that is a frightening thing.

As is perfectly demonstrated by the anti-violence push here at Liberty, there seems no shortage of pointless symbolism and fluff to “combat” violence. There are plenty of ways for people who do not believe in violence to stand together and say they don’t believe in such immature ways of handling their problems.

But such programs, although they make good people feel better, do not combat the problem. They do not turn violent people into smiling pacifists or, to my knowledge, serve any real purpose at all. They make good people smile, and bad people laugh.

See, it’s a two-way street. I am a harmless person. You could make me watch a week’s worth of gory, violent movies and play violent games for hours and listen to violent music, and then put a gun in my hand. I still wouldn’t kill anybody.

Now, let’s take somebody who is not quite so harmless—somebody who would kill in a heartbeat. Make them watch a week’s worth of anti-violence skits, motivational speakers, “What’s Next Days,” and speeches from [Assistant Principal] Mr. Eggleston. They’d still kill just the same.

Personalities are formed early. People become who they’re going to be based mostly on what they learn in their childhood—the time before high school. The only way to stop violence is for parents to teach their kids right and wrong and to instill ethics and morals and an early age.

In a county where many children are raised by television and day-care, who’s teaching our kids morals? The answer, sadly, is nobody—and therein lies the problem. It is a problem which can only be solved when people realize that it is their job to instill values of right and wrong in their children, and that if they don’t nobody will.

What can be done to stop this trend now? The unfortunate answer to that question is nothing. I believe that we are going to see school shootings continue for quite some time, probably at some point hitting right here in southern Virginia—maybe even here at Liberty. Despite the best efforts of thousands of good people across this country, I don’t think this trend will reverse until there is a massive change in our society—and such changes take time.

The answers don’t lie in gun control or censorship of the media or any of the other so-called “remedies” to this problem. The answers lie in the way our generation raises its children. Will you instill ethics, morals, and values of right and wrong into your children, or will you do what many of our generations’ parents have done?

Just what have those parents done? Many of them have traded an active part in their children’s’ lives for that extra job and that extra paycheck. Is this done out of requirement? Certainly, sometimes financial situations require families to take on more jobs, but more often than not the second job isn’t to keep food on the table. No, that second job is to have that newer computer, that better car, or that bigger television.

Many parents have traded their part in their children’s lives for materialistic wants, and that has left many children subconsciously searching for attention. That desire for attention often manifests itself in bad behavior, crime, and violence. Children left in the hands of corporate day-care—where it is now all-but-illegal to teach what’s right and wrong—never get those valuable life lessons that they aren’t getting from home. Parent’s cannot give up their children to others and just hope they come out all right in the end.

So, parents of the future, the choice is yours. We can shape the direction this world goes in. It can become more violent, or it can become a wonderful place. It all depends on how you raise your children. You need to make the decision to teach your kids what’s right and what’s wrong. But, before we get that chance, don’t be surprised when another shooting makes headlines.

Just remember—the near-future may look bleak, but it’s always darkest right before the dawn.