Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

9 Ways School Has Changed Since Columbine

Twelve years ago, two troubled students opened fire at their Littleton, Colorado, high school, killing 13 people and themselves. The Columbine High School massacre will forever be remembered as the worst school shooting in U.S. history, and one that has drastically changed our nation’s school system. Here are nine ways school has changed since Columbine:

  1. Heightened School Security: Schools have significantly increased their security measures since the 1999 Columbine massacre. Some of the common school security upgrades include: metal detectors, security cameras, required ID badges, enforced dress codes, banned or see-through backpacks and on-campus police officers. These often costly security measures have been the subject of much controversy, specifically over the rights of students and invasion of privacy.
  2. Increased Communication: Since the Columbine shooting, schools have taken new measures to increase communication among students, teachers and faculty about violence, weapons, bullying and other threats. Administrators have urged students to report any safety concerns to an adult, so that they can properly address the situation before anything escalates. Open communication and students’ participation in sharing information has helped prevent school attacks.
  3. Zero-Tolerance Policies: After the Columbine massacre, schools have truly put their foot down on student threats and bullying by enforcing zero-tolerance policies that punish any violation of a rule, regardless of ignorance, accidents or other circumstances. Most schools have adopted zero-tolerance policies for possession or use of weapons and drugs. Students, staff, parents and other school visitors who are in possession of a weapon or drug are punished. Zero-tolerance has lead to many criticisms and overreactions by school districts, such as student expulsions for bringing nail clippers or a knife to cut a cake to school.
  4. Increased Awareness: Schools and communities as a whole have become increasingly aware of the warning signs associated with troubled students and school attacks since Columbine. Students, faculty and parents are much more watchful of their surroundings at school and pay closer attention to unusual behavior. Schools take special notice of outcasts and encourage inclusion to foster a sense of belonging and bridge the gap between students. However, this heightened level of awareness and attention on students can also breed paranoia in the school system.
  5. Student Privileges are Limited: The school environment has undergone several changes since Columbine, and students have had to say goodbye to some of their beloved privileges in the process. Although generally minor, many schools have made the switch to mandatory school uniforms to decrease violence, theft and prevent the wearing of gang colors and insignia, while also helping school officials recognize intruders in the school. In addition to losing dress code privileges, some schools have also done away with off campus lunches and have forced students to wear ID badges so faculty and police can keep a close eye on everyone.
  6. Emergency Crisis Plans: Since Columbine, schools have become more prepared for school shootings by implementing lockdown drills similar to fire and natural disaster drills. These emergency crisis plans typically involve covering the classroom windows, locking the doors and having students sit in silence under their desks with their heads covered.
  7. Bullying and Violence Prevention Programs: After the Columbine shooting, schools have developed anti-bullying and violence initiatives to prevent bullying and provide support to victims of bullying. Violence and bullying prevention programs have helped students, teachers and parents understand the harmful effects of bullying, while teaching them how to stop it from happening. These programs also provide a safe place for victims and bullies to talk about their experiences with bullying.
  8. More Mental Health Counseling: Mental health counseling has become a norm in many U.S. schools, especially after Columbine. Students are often screened by counselors and school psychologists to determine their level of danger to others and themselves. Mental health counseling is needed for safety reasons, but it’s also an essential part of therapy for these troubled students.
  9. Cell Phones are Allowed on Campus: In an effort to ease parents’ worries and let them know their children’s whereabouts, most schools have allowed students to have cell phones on campus. In case of an emergency, such as Columbine, students now have a way to communicate with their parents or law enforcement by using their cell phones. Before the Columbine shooting, few schools allowed cell phones to be carried on campus or used on school grounds, but this decision has also caused a great deal of disruptions in the classroom and has even given way to bomb threats and other school attacks.