took to interview children without their parents present. The media presence lasted for several months, making daily life and the healing process extremely difficult for those affected by the shooting.
Westside Middle School has changed considerably in response to the shooting. Most distressing for its staff and students, they have had to come to terms with the notoriety and negative connotations of the school’s name. Immediately after the shooting, the school became a target for violence and threats from strangers coming out of nowhere. A bomb threat three days after the shooting forced the evacuation of the gymnasium, and there have been additional threats against the school since. News of the shooting has attracted various oddball characters to the school—for example, a clown angered because the school denied him permission to perform for the students showed up anyway and was found performing magic tricks in the school cafeteria. A man with a car full of newspaper clippings about different school shootings around the country turned up at Westside as well. The presence of these strangers wandering onto campus caused additional security concerns for the administration. Even several years after the shooting, some parents and students continue to feel that the school is a target of violence because of the shooting.
In the days immediately after the shooting, security was the administration’s main concern. Sheriff’s deputies were brought onto the school grounds to make the children feel safer. Afterward, a wooden-slat fence was built around the school grounds. Although this was supposed to make students feel more secure, law enforcement personnel and teachers noted that the fence actually provides a much better hiding place for a shooter and would make it easy for someone to push a gun between the slats without being seen. The school adopted a much harsher stance on disciplinary problems and threats. While Westside had always had a “zero tolerance” policy that applied to kids bringing weapons to school or other gross violations of the rules, after the shooting the policy was extended to cover threats that would previously have been ignored, such as those said in the heat of an argument. Some at the school described the policy as “common sense zero tolerance,” which still allowed some flexibility for administrators to judge the severity of incidents. But students and staff alike agreed that the climate of Westside is much changed and that transgressions are dealt with more harshly than was the case before the shooting.