possible signs; (2) There needs to be a mechanism in place for teachers to identify and refer students who might need a clinical evaluation; (3) Teachers should be more available to their students and get to know them better; (4) Bullying should not be tolerated at any level; and (5) Students need to be educated about telling their teachers about others students’ behavior that they find disturbing, and they need to feel safe in doing so.
Putting most of these ideas into practice would require systems change in the schools. Every community wants teachers who are motivated to know their students well, but whether teachers can sustain their motivation over time will depend on how school administrators have organized the school’s operations to build stronger teacher-student bonds and a true sense of community. This is especially important at a large institution such as Parker. One set of options, for example, would be to divide teachers and students into smaller administrative subunits, and then having teachers meet as a group to talk about and develop plans for all of the students in their subunit. No one we spoke with brought up the need to look at these kinds of systems issues.
After the shooting, the General McLane School District, with a grant from the Safe Schools Office of Pennsylvania, developed a character education program for its students. The program is built on six Pillars of Good Character—respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, trustworthiness, and citizenship. Under each is a set of principles. For example, under respect, the principles include “Follow the golden rule. Use manners. Don’t threaten, hit, or hurt anyone.” Across Route 99 from the high school and middle school is an old barn whose side has been painted with the program’s now familiar symbol, a stylized, triangleshaped pediment supported by six pillars, each labeled with one of the six program elements.
The curriculum is based on several programs that were already in place, including WiseSkills for grades 3–8, plus selected children’s books, videotapes, and other new materials and resources. In addition, the program incorporates a curriculum infusion model, with the principles of character education woven into the main academic curriculum. There are also special displays and activities planned throughout the school year.
Posters supporting the character education program appear in several storefronts in town. Opinion about the program is divided. Some parents wish that more time in school were devoted to these subjects, while others believe that character-building should be done at home and in the churches, with school time devoted to academic basics. One source complained to us that the school still needed a stronger antiharassment policy to make clear that bullying would not be tolerated.
In the aftermath of the shooting, the school district’s teachers now receive more training on conflict resolution and how to deescalate poten