Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 3, 1999
Counsellors fear violence could break out in Edmonton
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Two armed teenagers go on a shooting rampage in an Edmonton high school.
It could happen if limited provincial funding means students like the two who killed 12 students, a teacher and then themselves, in Littleton, Colo., don't get the counselling they desperately need, said a local high school counsellor.
"Could it happen here? Sure it could," said Julia Kopala, a counsellor at Archbishop MacDonald High School. "Any student can get a weapon anytime. To pretend they can't and that this couldn't happen here is silly.
"I also think as a counsellor, the work we do is preventive. How much it is supported by the province is another issue. Provincial cuts have really limited the programs we can offer. Some of these programs are for kids who need that kind of attention."
Kopala said teachers are aware when their students' moods change or when "they are hurting. But if there's no place for some of these kids to go, you just have to cross your fingers and hope something like (Littleton) doesn't happen."
The day after the massacre, teacher Susan Cauti abandoned the day's lesson plan to discuss a tragedy many students said "could happen here."
"I asked, 'Do you think this could happen in Canada, in Edmonton, in our school?'" said Cauti, a teacher at Archbishop MacDonald. "They said, 'Well yeah, it's just a matter of time.'
Students at Archbishop MacDonald are gathering signatures for a card they plan to send to Columbine High School.
Staff and students at Archbishop O'Leary High School have not initiated a similar campaign.
But school counsellor Joe Carr said he invites students to discuss the incident with him and to deal with the event in a manner most comfortable for them.
Carr said there have been classroom discussions about the incident, discussions which administrators have encouraged.
"It's so much better when we verbalize and bring it out into the open," Carr said. "With one person, I was able to bring it into a Christian dimension - that we're not alone in this, that the Lord is with us through it all."
One week after the Colorado shooting, students can still be heard talking about it, said Carr.
"That something like this happened in a high school, to students their age, they could relate to it," he said.