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Tired post-tragedy talk needs new angle

TWO RECENT events remind us that every time something bad happens in this world, people love to regurgitate the same crap over and over again in order "effect change." When a child opens fire on his classmates, Americans shout, "Pass stricter gun control laws!" and, "Punish the parents for neglect." When crimes occur at the University, students cry out, "Install more blue phones," and police urge us to "walk in groups." For awhile, I accepted these battle cries in hopes they would somehow make a difference. But it wasn't until last week when a friend of mine was assaulted as she walked home to Lambeth that I realized these cries are tired.

For years, the same suggestions for safety have been drilled into our heads by politicians, police and peers. We hear them so often that we begin to accept them as the ultimate truths behind making the world a better place. If we all just heed what we've heard, then surely these tragedies will cease to occur. But people rarely act, the tragedies don't stop, and there are many more suggestions to be made and things to be done.

While all these age-old safety tips are helpful and true, they are only a small fraction of the things that can be done to better society. Unfortunately, since they are so ingrained in our heads, it's hard to let other suggestions into our brain files. But we can at least try.

We should place the same old suggestions that inevitably follow a school shooting on the back burner and realize there is more to be done. Stricter gun control laws won't prevent disturbed children from obtaining weapons of destruction. We need to realize that Congress will never take action, and look for other ways around tragic school shootings.

Getting on the case of parents who don't care about their children or pay attention to them won't matter. They don't care. It's an unfortunate truth, but often the effort to change bad parents is hopeless, and the burden of helping disturbed children lands on teachers, mentors and classmates.

The solution lies in action. The most tragic part of the recent school shooting in San Diego is that students there said the same things students said after the Columbine tragedy. Statements like, "He had mentioned bringing a gun to school, but I thought he was joking," and "He was a forgotten child" echoed through the media in both cases. Instead of waiting until after a shooting occurs to wail about how to prevent the next shooting, we should realize that preventative action needs to occur now. If a student hears any comment about a shooting, even if they're sure it's a joke, they should alert school authorities. If a teacher notices a child slipping through the cracks, he or she should pick up the slack and help the child. Had someone acted on the "jokes" they overheard at Columbine or Santana High Schools, or made an effort to help a loner, perhaps these shootings never would have occurred.

Sometimes violent tragedies occur closer to home and lead to similar helpful hint regurgitation to prevent others. The recent attack on a female student as she walked down the pathway from U-Hall to Lambeth provoked many of the same comments heard after any attack.

Police urged us to walk in groups, on lighted pathways and with some defensive device. They told us to be alert and not to walk down unfamiliar pathways. The assaulted student wasn't coming home from work in a group. She was on a fairly well lit pathway. She had - and used - pepper spray. She was aware of her surroundings; she'd walked the same path every day - as do many other Lambeth residents. True, these suggestions are valid and do help, but the fact remains that they are repetitive and rarely lead to action. New suggestions and new actions need to be taken.

The obvious action that needs to be taken is the installation of more blue phones, but this too is a tired argument. We keep asking for more, and more have been installed, but assaults keep occurring.

If the student had not had to park her car in U-Hall, this attack wouldn't have been as likely to occur. Had she been able to park in the Lambeth parking lot, right next to where she lives, she would have been that much closer to home - a safe home.

One can't blame Parking and Transportation for the assault, but one sure can argue for changes in the parking situation. Countless students are forced to park anywhere from hundreds of feet to miles away from their homes. Many residents of all the on-Grounds housing areas must park at U-Hall if they can't find spaces close to home. Lambeth is closest to U-Hall of any of these residences, and yet students' safety still is a problem.

Sure, the buses run from U-Hall all over Grounds, but they stop running at midnight. The assaulted student, like others, had to work until past midnight and so was forced to walk. Imagine the trek that awaits a student who lives in Hereford and is forced to walk home due to working past midnight. If more parking is made available to students who live on Grounds, and that parking is actually near their residences, the amount of attacks will decrease. True, it will be expensive to add new parking decks, but who's going to argue about money when another student is assaulted?

(Brandon Almond is a Cavalier Daily opinion editor. He can be reached at balmond@cavalierdaily.com.)

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