Reviewing the list of options, one person who met with us cautioned against “the false doctrine of salvation by activity.” That said, he noted that there probably were not enough activities in town for middle school students, a point echoed by several other community residents. One school official explained that, as children reach middle school, many parents think they need less supervision and are more willing to let them stay home alone while both parents work. Transportation is another problem. The community is rural, and many residences are several miles from places or activities that students this age would enjoy. When they reach high school, young people have additional opportunities available to them, many of them through the school itself. And, as they get older, many of them are able to get themselves to community-based programs or after-school jobs by driving or getting a ride from an older friend.
Edinboro has a low crime rate, but crime is not unknown. When applying for a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the police department noted that Edinboro had seen a very large increase in drug violations between 1994 and 1998. The department attributes the increase to college students, stating that several areas along the periphery of the university have experienced increased drug-related activity over the past 12 years. Several renter-occupied dwelling units have developed into drug trafficking bases, which have attracted some gang members from nearby major cities. In June 2000, two parents and their 18-year-old daughter were arrested for growing marijuana in their home and on their property. The drug problem extends into the middle school. LSD, in the form of “liquid acid,” is a new worry, according to some sources. The dealer takes an LSD tab, crushes it, mixes it with alcohol and a sweetener, and sells it a few drops at a time. School officials note, however, that Parker’s surveys of student drug use show rates slightly below the national average.
In a commentary published by the Erie Times-News just two days after the shooting, an Edinboro University professor wrote, “Is there anything we can learn to do differently after a tragedy like the one we are living through today in Edinboro? Or do we shed a tear and then go back to our usual ways?” Any community that suffers misfortune has the opportunity to learn and be strengthened by the experience. Has that happened in Edinboro?
Virtually everyone who spoke with us offered opinions about what lessons should be learned from this tragedy. The idea that parents need to spend more time with their kids was a recurring theme. A newspaper quote from an Edinboro police officer captured this sentiment: “When