Deadly Violence in Murrysville’s High School

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

Violence among teenagers, like domestic violence, has no correlation with social differentiators such as education, pedigree, wealth, or the ZIP codes where we live. All three recent incidents of school violence by teenagers in Columbine, Colorado (1999), Sandy Hook, Connecticut (2013), and now, in our own backyard Murrysville this April, occurred in public schools in bucolic neighborhoods with well-manicured lawns and “desirable” ZIP codes. The stabbings at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville in April were by one out-of-control teenager using two large kitchen knives. In a matter of minutes, 22 students were injured, three of them seriously. The three required extended stays in ICUs and multiple surgeries. Fortunately nobody died.

That the student’s choice of weapon was long kitchen knives and not guns was fortuitous. If he had used guns, we would have ended up with war-like killings. Just imagine, if the unhinged teenager had no weapons at all, only a few kids would have gotten bruised faces in a fist fight.

I was speechless hearing on the radio that they deployed in Murrysville, a desirable bedroom community, medical triage units trained by US army medical units that served in Iraq, saving wounded soldiers in battlefields! Is this where we have arrived as a “civilized” society?

The criminal justice system will go through its winding course deciding the fate of the 16-year old deranged perpetrator of these violent stabbings. But the incident leaves behind traumatized kids, parents, the devastated family of the unhinged student who committed the stabbings, and a community seeking answers. No matter what the judgment will be — the 16-year old is being tried as an adult — the young man’s life is ruined, and his family has an uphill task rehabilitating themselves.

For the many young adults reading this magazine we want to tell you this: As your elders, we are deeply committed to your wellbeing and future. So, listen to this: no matter what the perceived provocation will be, never ever be in situations where you are the perpetrator of this kind of violence, no matter what the aggravation. Equally important, or better still more important, we also certainly do not want you to be a victim in this type of senseless violence. 

So, be smart and keep these pointers in mind even as you are having a good time with your friends during the school years:

•   Be aware of the changing “mood” of the groups you are in at all times. If you are mindful of your environment and sensitive, your instinct will tell you when simple jovial teenage pranks are getting out of control and beyond acceptable limits.

•   Resist the temptation to seek acceptance by encouraging, approving, or participating in the bullying of a single individual in a group either because he is weak, or because of his race, faith, ethnicity or other differentiators.

•   You don’t need the tribal group identity and acceptance of your peers to find camaraderie.

•   Be fair and respectful towards everyone.

•   When things are getting out of hand and may become violent, try to diffuse the situation. If it is not possible, leave the scene right away and get the hell out.

•   Always keep open access to your parents and teachers so that you discuss with them these kinds of situations brewing in your mind. These types of experiences may be new to you as a young adult. But they have seen many of these, and know how to handle them.

Your life is too precious to be wasted in these kinds of traumatic and entirely mindless excursions. ♦

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