Guns, bullets and cliques? How US schools will try to end violence

Rather than dealing with bullying and school violence the students in Massapequa Park, New York, could instead watch movies and computers.

The Town of Brookhaven, the controlling entity of the Nassau County community of roughly 32,000, which has experienced a rash of high-profile gun violence, is offering a gun-violence-free school start as a solution. The gun-free starting time – still set to begin at 8.15am – is set for Monday as the shootings at the Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nevada, made headlines.

Susan Dunne, director of curriculum and instruction, said that her school’s grand experiment is still being evaluated – but was inspired after a shooting at Monsignor Farrell, a Catholic high school in New York City.

“It’s nice to know that our children will be safe,” she said. “We thought about offering a day where no children will arrive and no school uniforms will be required and we thought about how effective it would be to start that day.”

The Massachusetts school shooting, in which two teenage boys shot and wounded another student and a teacher, was also a driving force.

“Given all the headlines that have come out of schools in the past year, even just in our own community, and to give some kind of guidelines to the community as to what school starts are acceptable and what school starts are not acceptable, the board felt that offering that day where there will be no high school students, no middle school students, that there is one common time and one program to handle everything, was a way to do that.”

• Reporting by Kimberly Rich. This article was amended on 17 September 2010 to remove references to a “gun-free start” and to clarify the school’s timetable as starting as soon as students arrive on Monday morning rather than at the expected time of 8.15am.

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