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chuck green

DeAngelis has no answers

By Chuck Green
Denver Post Columnist

Aug. 28, 2000 - Principal Frank DeAngelis, the man who supposedly knows more about the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School than anyone else - offers virtually no recommendations on how to prevent such a tragedy other than Rodney King's well-known plea that "we all just learn to get along." DeAngelis, in an appearance last week before the governor's blue-ribbon Columbine Review Commission, had lots to say about responding to a massacre in progress:

Have a good set of building blueprints in the hands of law enforcement.

Make sure all rescue personnel are on the same radio frequency.

Make certain that your school is staffed by competent, mature professionals.

Have students regularly practice an evacuation plan.

Design alarm systems that can be shut off from outside the facility, so the blaring sounds don't interfere with rescue attempts.

Thank you, Mr. DeAngelis.

All of those suggestions have been known for months, and so the esteemed principal of Columbine added little insight to the common-sense analysis that already has been offered by authorities as diverse as SWAT-team police and school janitors. And none of what he had to say enlightened us on how to prevent such a tragedy.

No one at Columbine saw any warning signs, he said.

No one at Columbine was aware of the bullying environment between groups of students, he said.

No one at Columbine believed that killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold felt alienated, he said.

No one at Columbine saw the climate as anything other than "normal," he said.

And so, according to the gospel of Frank DeAngelis, there is nothing we can do to prevent the next school massacre - just make sure the blueprints are on file and the alarms can be shut off when it happens.

More than a year after the tragedy, DeAngelis remains in denial. He still refuses to consider the very real stories than dozens of students and their parents tell about the dysfunctional side of Columbine.

There was bullying at the school, jocks were favored in disciplinary cases, Harris and Klebold were alienated, signs of trouble were surfacing - including in the contents of school projects submitted by the two killers.

Since DeAngelis' denial is being tolerated by the political system in Colorado, it now rests with the legal system to uncover the truth. Several civil lawsuits have been filed that ought to expose the soft underbelly of Columbine, and the state of denial where Frank DeAngelis has sought refuge.

Maybe some brave attorney, representing some courageous client, will finally ask DeAngelis why a school-project videotape of a school-massacre drama wasn't a sign of trouble at Columbine.

If that doesn't happen, America ought to follow DeAngelis' best advice - have your school blueprints ready for the SWAT teams.

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