Background: School Violence

May 22, 1998 at 12:00 AM EDT

SPENCER MICHELS: The shock and grief in Springfield, Oregon, today seemed uncomfortably familiar. Yesterday’s shootings were the sixth time in eight months that a student had fired on other children on school property or at a school event. Kipland Kinkel, a fifteen-year-old freshman at Thurston High School armed with three guns shot and killed two fellow students. Twenty-two others were wounded and three remain in critical condition at Oregon hospitals. Kinkel had been arrested and suspended Wednesday after a gun was discovered in his locker.

At a press conference today, school superintendent Jamon Kent said teachers called Kinkel an average everyday kid, but students said Kinkel had threatened violence.

JAMON KENT, School Superintendent: I think what I’m saying to you is that if we detained every student that said they were going to kill someone on our campuses today, we would have a large number of kids detained.

SPENCER MICHELS: In an unrelated incident today, police in St. Charles, Missouri, said they had thwarted a plot by three sixth-grade boys to stage a sniper attack on fellow elementary students. It was to take place during a false fire alarm on the last day of school.

Police called it a copycat crime modeled after the March shooting at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas. There, two boys — aged 11 and 13 — killed four students and a teacher and wounded 10 others. Earlier this week, an honor student in Fayetteville, Tennessee, opened fire in the parking lot of his high school, killing a classmate. In April, a fourteen-year-old shot a science teacher at a school dance in Edinboro, Pennsylvania.

In December, another fourteen-year-old boy killed three students and wounded five others at an early morning prayer circle at a West Paducah, Kentucky school. Two months before that, in Pearl, Mississippi, a teenager murdered his mother and then killed two students and wounded six others at school.

STUDENT: He said he was going to come here and do something stupid.

SPENCER MICHELS: In several instances, including yesterday’s shooting, there were warning signs that were not heeded.

BILL DeFORREST, Police Chief: One of the questions that we have been asking, our investigators have been asking, students who have told us that they had concerns about this, about Kip, is did you tell anybody? And at least the people we have talked to thus far have said no, we didn’t tell anybody, we didn’t take him seriously.