Monday, April 16, 2007

Potential Columbine-like Massacre Copycat Pre-empted in Calgary

As if today's news about the massacre in Virginia wasn't enough to digest, I just discovered that a similar tragedy has been avoided in Calgary this week thanks to the potential shooter's parents:

CALGARY (CP) - Authorities say it was the parents of a teen charged with threatening to kill teachers on the anniversary of the Columbine massacre who tipped police that he posed a danger.

The 14-year-old student, whose name can't be published under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was charged April 2 with uttering death threats against two teachers at a junior high school in Calgary. However, police made no public announcement about the charges until Friday.

A number of weapons were seized from his home. Reports have suggested one of them was an assault rifle, although police have not confirmed that.

A letter was sent to parents two days later that said "implied threats" had been made against the teachers.

"We're really attributing this to the great open communication between this student and his parents as a factor in how this was identified," said Dawn Delaney of the Calgary Catholic Board of Education.

"This just goes to show how important it is to have open communication with (your) children and, if you observe a change in your child's behaviour, don't ignore it. Talk to them about it and encourage them to talk freely to you."

Everything appeared almost normal Monday at the school where the 14-year-old had been attending class. The exception was the presence of a few plainclothes police officers.

Delaney said the officers were there to assure everyone at the school that they were safe, although there was no longer any threat to students or staff.

The youth is not allowed on school property and won't be coming back to classes, she said.

It's believed the teen was planning an attack to coincide with the April 20 anniversary of the 1999 Columbine massacre in Littleton, Colo., in which 12 students and one teacher were shot to death by two teenagers.

Kudos to the parents for paying attention and doing the right thing. I'm sure this will send chills through the community as so many of us remember what happened in Taber, Alberta as well.

As one expert on CNN reiterated today, the massacre in Virginia may also spur copycat attacks just as the Columbine shootings did. On top of that, April 19th is also the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.

A very tense week indeed.

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