The superintendent of the Colorado school district that includes Columbine High School says that the threats and intrusions that continue at the school 20 years after a deadly shooting attack there have convinced him that the community should consider tearing down the building.
In an opinion piece published in The Washington Post, Jefferson County (Colo.) District Superintendent Jason Glass elaborates on the reasons he raised the idea last month, shortly after the 20-year anniversary of the April 1999 attack in which 13 people were killed and 24 wounded.
Glass writes that the Columbine campus "seems to serve as a macabre inspiration for the contagion of school shootings in the United States over the past two decades."
He notes that between June 2018 and May 2019, the Columbine campus had 2,401 unauthorized visitors. Most are just curious to see the school they've heard about for 20 years.
But others are more aggressive about trying to enter the school or have more sinister intent, such as the Florida teen "infatuated" with Columbine who caused many area schools to close as a precaution when she traveled to Colorado, acquired a shotgun and made threats. She subsequently died by suicide in Jefferson County.
"With no sign that the threats and unwanted intrusions will abate, I have asked people to consider the possibility that the building should be razed and a new facility constructed," Glass writes.
Glass acknowledges compelling arguments on each side of the debate. Advocates of replacing the building say new construction could incorporate elements that will enhance the safety of students and staff. A new building also could diminish the notoriety that attracts outsiders to the campus.
Opponents note that replacing a high school facility would be expensive and there would be no guarantee that a new Columbine would end the ongoing security threats.
Others have come to see the existing building as a place of grieving and healing after the shooting, or view its continued existence as a symbol of triumph over the shooters who tried to destroy it.
"From my vantage point, there are no 'right' answers," Glass writes. "There are options, all of which come bundled with challenges, opportunities and consequences."
"Regardless of what happens with the building, perhaps the greatest outcome would be for our community to engage thoughtfully on a very difficult and emotional issue, not seeing the other side as “good” or “bad” but instead speaking directly and honestly with those who see things differently."