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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence
not receive any therapy and were never given a chance to talk about their feelings because their parents wanted them to put the shooting behind them.
Others feared that these students might be experiencing behavioral problems as a result of the inordinate attention they received after the shooting. Students who witnessed the shooting were asked to be on national television, were sent gifts from around the world, were taken on trips, and were provided with other activities. Some counselors and parents feared that these activities may have not only kept them from really dealing with their feelings, but that the experience of being treated as a celebrity because of their terrible experience may have given them a sense of entitlement. Some of these students, one parent claimed, use the shooting as a crutch to get what they want.
For its part, the school is striving to put the shooting behind them. As a result, there is a widely held perception that the school does not want to talk about the shooting and is not supportive of those who are still having trouble as a result of it. Teachers who have difficulties performing their jobs due to depression or post-traumatic stress disorder felt they were not supported by the school, but rather were being told that they should be over it. Students who were still affected by the shooting after several years were also told—by teachers as well as other students—that it was time for them to move on. Yet some of those who were most affected felt that they have not had the open discussion that would allow them to move on. From the school’s perspective, it was difficult to encourage any formal discussion because people were at such different stages of the healing process. Some were done healing and didn’t want to relive the memories, while others still needed to. The school may not be able to cultivate an atmosphere of open discussion, but for those still learning to cope with their trauma, the school’s support was extremely important. They sought an acknowledgment that it was alright for them still to be traumatized. When those who have moved on acted as if there was something wrong with those who have not, it deepened the divisions among these groups.
CONSEQUENCES FOR THE COMMUNITY
When the subject of the Westside shooting is raised in the Jonesboro area three years after the fact, it is clear that it still brings up hard feelings and emotions. The community is angry that there was never a sense of closure because Johnson and Golden were given indeterminate sentences, which are seen as too short even at their maximum length. There was also no sense of closure when the Extended Juvenile Jurisdiction Act was passed, because it did not provide them with the solutions they had