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The Force Vs. The Dark Side
More Valentine's Day Tragedy Comes to Columbine High School
By Don Fass

LITTLETON, Colo. - Two Columbine High sweethearts were found dead early Monday after a shooting at a sandwich shop within sight of their school, compounding the heartbreak in the community that suffered the worst school shooting in U.S. history.

The bodies of Nicholas Kunselman, 15, and Stephanie Hart, 16, were discovered inside the Subway shop where Kunselman worked. Investigators did not disclose a motive but ruled out murder-suicide.

Jefferson County sheriff's spokesman Steve Davis said the cause of death had not been determined, and he said he did not know whether a weapon had been found. Investigators were reviewing a videotape from a surveillance camera inside the restaurant. ``I hope it was just a robbery,'' said one of Kunselman's co-workers, J.J. Hodack, 22. ``I've had more than enough of this. This stuff needs to stop.''

The shooting was the latest in a string of tragedies that have hit the Denver suburb since teen-age gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and a teacher at Columbine on April 20 and then committed suicide.

Classes remained in session Monday, but at least 100 students stayed away. Students said some of those who did attend could be seen crying in the hallways. At least 25 counselors were kept busy most of the day, said Betty Fitzpatrick, health services director for the school district.

``It reminds me of everything. It's just like flashbacks,'' said Nathan Vanderau, an 18-year-old senior who knew some of the victims of last year's shooting as well as Monday's victims and is in counseling.

Among the other incidents that have added to the unease in the community:
In October, the mother of a student partially paralyzed in the massacre shot herself to death.

On Feb. 1, the body of an 11-year-old boy was found in a trash bin within blocks of the school. No arrests have been made.

Last week, a Florida man pleaded guilty in Denver to sending a Columbine student an Internet message threatening to finish the massacre. The threat prompted officials to close the school for the Christmas holidays two days early. He faces up to five years in prison.

Friends said Hart enjoyed sports but was quiet and didn't go out much except to stop by the sub shop to see Kunselman. He had worked at the sub shop for only a month but had won the manager's confidence and often was assigned to close the restaurant at 10 p.m., Hodack said. ``Obviously, our boss trusted him. He's a good worker,'' he said.

A Subway employee driving past the store noticed a light inside the store about 1 a.m. Since the business was supposed to be closed, the woman stopped, went inside and discovered the bodies.

As investigators worked inside the shop about two blocks from the high school, Columbine students and relatives of the victims gathered in the parking lot, placing bouquets just outside police lines. They also wrote chalk memorial messages.

``Every week, there's something that happens here,'' said Daniel Baker, who brought three friends to deliver flowers. ``This is supposed to be a normal community.''

Courtney Scott, an 18-year-old cousin of Hart, placed a heart-shaped bouquet of flowers with a banner reading, ``I love you,'' outside the shop. She said Hart was not at Columbine the day of last year's shooting.

A school spokesman confirmed both victims attended Columbine last year but did not know if either was there when the massacre occurred.

News of another shooting in Littleton resonated in the Statehouse in Denver, where the House debated gun restrictions that were drafted in part because of the Columbine massacre.

``It's horrifying to me,'' said House Minority Leader Ken Gordon, a Denver Democrat who sponsored some of the measures. ``We are not getting it done. We are not protecting the people of the state.''

By Don Fass

The April shootings at the Littleton, Colorado high school that killed 15 students and a heroic teacher gave warnings heard all too many times before and yet, tragically not heeded.

Consider: for thirty years, all too many teenagers have been growing up alone.

Consider: Guns are still too available to kids as well as those adults who would harm them and those other kids not dealing with their feelings.

A few weeks after the tragedy, the Natle Rifle Association was holding its annual convention in Denver, while elsewhere in that city, Star Wars fans were preparing to greet George Lucas' Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, with its continuing fable of the Force vs. the Dark Side.

Consider: West Hollywood tried to de-rail a successful program to help street kids and runaways there because they preferred to continue neglect, rather than be embarassed by attention to their street population. Oakland's City Childrens Fund, and Clorox Corporation twice rejected a combined after-school teen computer and citywide central childrens resource center that already had all the computers and materials donated, while Medford, Or police closed down a volunteer teen center doing much good and harassed the founder, a woman, out of her life-savings poured into it.

Consider: Leading Corporate Foundations like The Gap and numerous others, including community funders like the San Francisco Foundation, as documented by the San Francisco Bay Guardian almost 2 years ago, play politics with their money, rarely fund grassroots programs and often don't give away the 5% of assets required by law.

Consider: States and counties spend far more on prisons than after-school preventive programs to help youth. The Federal 'War on Drugs still devotes most of its effort to law enforcement, unsuccessfully, rather than prevention and treatment.

Consider: Millions of American children are physically or sexually abused, run away, grow up with no parents home or surrounded by domestic abuse or alcohol or other drug abusing parents or in dire poverty..

Consider: The hate that is taught to many young people or that they see their parents still ingraining in them. Look at the death of young Matthew Shepard in Montana or the two teens in Littleton who timed their long-planned violence to coincide with Adolph Hitler's Birthday. Or that sawed off shot guns and pipe bombs were in plain view in the room of one of the teens who killed so many in Littleton--the parents must have known.
Consider: In Littleton, as in many other places, there was much advance warning of the threats, instability and alienation of the youth who went on such a horrendous killing spree, but nobody spoke up, nobody tried to counsel them or accept them or get the law involved.

And on and on it goes till millions and millions more Americans decide to join 1000's of volunteers, teachers, dedicated youth workers and many others who are sacrificing their lives and livelyhoods for our youth, crying out for more drug treatment, helping street kids, conducting conflict resolution and sensitivity training in schools, offering realistic sex education (that includes loving values), taking guns off the streets, running programs like 'Scared Straight,' creating realistic drug prevention unlike DARE programs, while providing real time to help, after-school centers to turn lives around, much more mentoring, more day-to- day-concern about their kids lives from parents and so much more that is needed by so many more young people.

Until our children become our true national priority, tragedies like we have seen so much these past several years will keep happening over and over, whether adults hurt children or kids keep killing kids.

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A Lot to Be Thankful For:
What Parents Want Children to Learn About America

In an age of cynicism, the parents of America still believe in their country and they want the public schools to teach their children to believe as well.

A Lot to Be Thankful For focuses on what parents consider the key American values, and to our knowledge is the first to specifically seek out parents who have immigrated here, as well as U.S.-born ones. We wanted to know what parents believe about their nation, and what they wanted their children to learn about being an American. In many ways, what we found is heartening.

We found a clear-eyed patriotism among parents of all backgrounds; a deep belief that the United States is a unique nation, while acknowledging its faults. Parents want the schools to face those faults, but not to dwell on them -- the parents we surveyed want history taught with fairness to all groups, but recoil from strategies that they feared might encourage divisiveness.

America's parents have absorbed the principles of the Bill of Rights, even though few of them can fit a particular freedom to a given amendment. They believe in personal freedom, tolerance toward others, and hard work -- and they think "bad citizens" include the lazy or intolerant.

Finally, parents of all backgrounds firmly believe the schools must teach immigrant children to speak English as quickly as possible, both as a survival skill and as a symbol of their intent to become Americans. They also want schools to teach the common values of American society. Yet this commitment to English and assimilation does not translate into a fear of immigrants themselves. The parents we surveyed fear division, not diversity.

And one of the greatest fears voiced by parents is a fear of something that could only happen in their own hearts: they fear taking the United States for granted.

Foreign-born and U.S.-born parents of all backgrounds share a belief that the U.S. is a special country, and treasure its freedoms. But parents also recognize that the U.S. has failings, and has a mixed record of living up to its own ideals.

The chief components of the American ideal -- identified by very strong majorities of all groups -- are individual freedom, opportunity and hard work, combined with a commitment to tolerance and respect for others. To parents, "bad citizens" are those who refuse to work or are intolerant of people of different backgrounds.

America's parents display an impressive love of country but they are not very knowledgeable about its historic foundations. They also express fears about taking the country for granted and that there's too much emphasis on "the things that divide us." These fears are widespread, but rarely related to increased immigration or ethnic diversity.

Large numbers of both U.S. and foreign-born parents expect the schools to teach all children about the ideals and history of the country.

Learning to speak English as quickly as possible is seen as the cornerstone of assimilation, both as a practical necessity and as a symbol that a person intends to become an American. Parents fully reject the theory of bilingual education; parents who immigrated to the U.S. are even more opposed to it.

Parents do not view lessons that emphasize the history of different groups as a problem, but parents from all groups recoil at hypothetical examples of lessons that seem to encourage divisiveness among Americans. African Americans are most likely to believe the schools still do not give sufficient attention to minorities.

This is just a sampling of A Lot to Be Thankful For. The full report can be ordered from Public Agenda. We also welcome comments about this study on our Online Experts message board.

The Public Agenda Online service takes an in-depth look at both the background and the public opinion behind 18 public-policy issues, including extensive sections on immigration, race relations and education. Each section includes statistics, a news digest, a contact list of organizations involved in the debate and analysis of public opinion trends.

21st Century Schools Afterschool Facts Millions of Children in Need

"Sometimes there are so many things you can’t do. I can’t have company or leave the house. If I talk on the phone, I can’t let anyone know I’m here alone. But I really think they’ve figured it out, you know. Duh." --Amy, 14, Michigan

•An estimated 28 million school-age children have working parents – including 5 million to 7 million "latchkey children" who get no adult supervision afterschool.

•More than 80 percent of parents want their child to attend an afterschool program, yet only 30 percent of public elementary and middle schools offer such programs.

•One study found that eighth-graders left unsupervised for 11 hours or more a week are twice as likely to abuse drugs or alcohol as those under adult supervision.

•After-school hours are the riskiest time of the day for children: Juvenile crime rates triple and youth without positive alternatives may do drugs, smoke, drink or engage in sexual activity.

Quality programs make a difference

I used to hate math. It was stupid. But when we started using geometry and trigonometry to measure the trees and collect our data, I got pretty excited. Now I’m trying harder in school." --Teen, from Y.O.U. Program, Manchester, New Hampshire

•A Texas afterschool program featuring strong parental involvement and an emphasis on academics boosted student achievement scores in 25 schools by 20 percent between 1993 and 1996.

•In Los Angeles, a study of the afterschool program, "LA’s BEST" found students who attended made significant academic gains, felt safer, liked school more and were less likely to participate in gangs.

•Ninety percent of the students in ASPIRA, a nationwide afterschool education and leadership program for Hispanic youth, have continued their education beyond high school, compared with only 45 percent of all Hispanic youth in America

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