School officials say security measures are constantly tested by people obsessed with the events of 1999, while the survivors of the shooting and other community members express their scepticism that taking down the building will change anything.
The officials at the notorious Columbine High School, where a mass shooting took place in 1999, leaving 13 people dead, are considering tearing the building down in order to deter a massive flow of people that see the place as either a mecca or a macabre tourist attraction.
“The morbid fascination with Columbine has been increasing over the years,” Jason Glass, the superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools, wrote Thursday in an open letter, according to The New York Times. “We believe it is time for our community to consider this option.”
The letter cites experts who recommend razing the structure where the shooting took place. Sandy Hook Elementary School, which became a scene of the deadliest school shooting and the fourth deadliest shooting ever in 2012, has been bulldozed to the ground. A new school was built on a different part of the same property. Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed in 2018, is about to follow suit as workers prepare to obliterate the building as well.
However, many other survivors opted not to destroy the properties, instead converting them into memorials for the victims. First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, where 26 people were killed in 2017, was converted into a memorial, while a new church was built nearby. Pulse nightclub in Orlando, where 49 people were killed in 2016, is planning to establish a museum and a memorial.
The Columbine survivors appear to be critical of destroying the school building, The New York Times report says.
Some survivors say the destruction of a building will not change anything. Some say millions of dollars would be better spent on student-related programs.
Some members of the community were reportedly not even alive at the time of the incident, but consider themselves a part of the “community healing process.”
“That building is a symbol of strength,” says one local resident. “Our community really did bind together to show that we are stronger than what happened.”
Still, school officials say the influx of “the curious and the possessed” puts too heavy a strain on the school’s security measures. Due to the constant attention of the outsiders, the building is now protected “like a fortress,” complete with remotely-locked doors, cameras and 24-hour security monitoring, the Times report says.
“I know all of the severity of the threats,” he said. “We don’t tell everybody all of those things. I think if people knew, they’d be really scared,” Glass said in an interview, adding that while the school is now a model institution in terms of security, said security is “tested constantly.”
The school district released an online survey on Thursday for residents to consider an option to allocate up to $70 million for a construction project.
“At some point, we have to stop being the poster child for school shootings around the country,” John McDonald, the Jefferson County Public Schools safety director, said in an interview.
On 20 April 1999, two senior students, armed with guns, killed 10 students and one teacher in the school’s library, and subsequently committed suicide. Until Sandy Hook, it was the deadliest school shooting in US history.