Shooting leaves community asking 'what went wrong'

BY PJ HELLER | LAKE WORTH, FL | May 27, 2000


LAKE WORTH, FL (May 27, 2000) The recent slaying of a teacher in Lake Worth has brought renewed debate over gun violence and its causes. As community members seek grief counseling from pastors and social workers, they all seem to ask why.

Those who knew the 13-year-old who shot his teacher say he was friendly, a good student, a good kid. Now they're wondering what prompted him to such violence.

"Somewhere along the line, something went wrong," said Steve Hickman, senior pastor at the Greenacres Free Methodist Church in Lake Worth who recently completed training in conflict resolution. "Someone went wrong. It was probably a combination of different things. But something went wrong to

make him do that."

Authorities were piecing together the events that led up to the fatal shooting of a teacher allegedly by seventh-grader Nathaniel Brazill at Lake Worth Community Middle School.

The student, was suspended for disruptive behavior on the last day of school, but returned to the campus and fired a single shot into the head of English teacher Barry Grunow, 35.

Grunow, who was shot in front of about a half dozen students, died at the school, which has an enrollment of about 1,500. Funeral services were held on Tuesday.

The seventh grader was charged with first-degree murder and aggravated assault with a firearm.

No one else was injured in the shooting.

The incident was the latest in a series of school shootings throughout the United States, including multiple killings in Colorado, Oregon, Arkansas, and Kentucky.

"We're seeing more and more (school violence)," said Pamela Riley, director for the Center for the Prevention of School Violence at North Carolina State University. "Instead of things being handled in the principal's office, they're being handled in the District Attorney's Office. The severity of what's happening is shocking."

Riley said what prompts such violent behavior is still not clearly known.

"Different things set people off," she said. "We have to understand what those are, and we have to teach young people how to handle conflict. I don't think we're doing a very good job of that."

Riley noted that deaths at schools throughout the U.S. had declined from 26 last year to 13 this year.

"We're moving in the right direction," she said. "However, it's the severity of something when it happens that's so shocking."

Grunow was married and the father of two children.

The shooting occurred just minutes before school was to end for summer vacation.

Hickman, who works with troubled youth in Greenacres, blamed much of the violence occurring today in the schools on parents.

"A lot of the kids are unchurched, they're unsupervised, they come from dysfunctional families," he said. "Personally, I don't think there's a lot of care in the home as far as really caring about the kids, really loving

them, and really taking an interest in them.

"There's a lot of families now that just let their kids come and go and they don't care. They're wrapped up in their own little lives," he said. "The kids roam the streets, they have a lot of free time, They're very

hurt. They're very aggrieved by what's happening. I think they're just crying out and one way to get attention is just do what that young man did."

"We're responsible for our children coming into the world," Hickman said. "We don't only bring them in but we need to bring them up as well.

"I really believe that if people felt responsible not only for bringing them into the world but for taking care of them in more ways than just clothes on their back and shoes on their feet then that might be the change

that we need," he said.

Riley said that much of that responsibility is falling on the schools.

"When they're not receiving it (adult recognition and approval) at home, it's very difficult for the schools to pick up the slack with that," she said.

"It takes a comprehensive effort if we're going to produce productive, effective, responsible citizens in this world," Riley said. "It's the school's responsibility, the home's responsibility, and the community

working together to make this happen."

Updated May 30, 2000


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