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Preventing school violence: a time for hard, solid thinking
  1. Lisa C Barrios
  1. Division of Adolescent and School Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Mailstop K-33, Atlanta, GA 30341-3717, USA email:

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    On my office wall hang several quotes from the Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. That is probably not surprising, considering that much of my work involves youth violence prevention. No one in American history has spoken more passionately or eloquently than Dr King on the evils of violence. One of the quotes from Dr King on my wall, however, is not found in books of famous quotations, nor has it become part of the lexicon of American history as have so many of his words. Yet, as I work on youth violence prevention, this is often the quote I find most inspirational:

    “Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think”.

    At times of crises, it is especially important to listen to Dr King's message. For US schools, never had there been a crisis on the scale of what happened in Columbine High School last year. On 20 April 1999, two students at this high school in Colorado killed 12 students and one teacher and injured 21 others, before committing suicide. This followed several school shootings during the previous school year. After the tragedy at Columbine, parents, government officials, and the news media called for immediate solutions to school violence. Proposed solutions included restricting access to campuses so that students and others could not enter or leave during the school day, posting armed police officers in schools, increasing the use of metal detectors, tightening gun control legislation, and trying young perpetrators in adult courts. Loud cries were heard for the development of “warning signs” to identify students who might perpetrate such crimes in the future. Security companies began offering their …

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