Prior to the shooting, Parker had begun a peer mediation program to help resolve student conflicts, but there was no violence prevention curriculum. Washington Township, where Parker is located, falls in the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania State Police. One trooper was assigned to serve as the resource officer for nine school districts, including General McLane, with a presentation series that included grade 5 and 6 lessons on drug and alcohol abuse. The trooper was able to do presentations at schools only up to twice a year and sometimes was unable to reach certain schools. In 1998, for example, he did not visit the General McLane School District.
Parents we talked with complained that, while the district’s elementary schools did a good job of monitoring the children’s progress and staying in touch with parents, the middle school did not. Many of them blamed the principal, Patricia Crist, but others noted that parents had begun to register this complaint about the school years before, when the new building was erected and the grade 5 classes were transferred to the middle school. A school administrator informed us that Crist’s predecessor was similarly criticized. For many years, Parker has had a student support program to which students who may need intervention can be referred. There is no record that Andrew was ever formally referred.
Andrew Wurst’s eighth grade class was the largest cohort at the school, with over 50 more students than the other grades. Looking back on Andrew’s time at the school, no school official can remember him standing out in any way, either positively or negatively. In his statement to police, David A. Masters, Andrew’s science teacher, described him as withdrawn and reserved, but not as a loner. He also noted that Andrew had never been disruptive in class. Indeed, Andrew had no disciplinary record at Parker. There was also no record of his being bullied. In short, Andrew was not a kid that teachers were concerned about.
Both Parker Middle School and Nick’s Place are located just outside Edinboro in Washington Township, a mostly rural area that surrounds Edinboro. With a population of just under 7,000, the Borough of Edinboro is the largest of several municipalities in the General McLane School District. As one Edinboro official put it, “We’re the pinpoint on the map for the greater Edinboro area.”
People speak of Edinboro as a good place to raise a family. Located 18 miles south of Erie, the borough is the home of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, originally named the Edinboro State Normal School. With nearly 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students, the university gives