|Source (subtitle):||a newspaper for members of the National Education Association|
|Subject Terms:||School violence|
|Copyright National Education Association Feb 2000|
All six of the fatal school shootings of the last two years have produced massive lawsuits by the victims' families.
Who are the families suing? School boards, principals, teachers, parents, students, gun makers, and even Hollywood.
* In Jonesboro, Arkansas, the families of the four students and one teacher who were killed have sued the two shooters (age 11 and 13), their parents, the grandfather of one perpetrator (from whom they took the guns), and the two manufacturers of the guns.
The gun makers are liable, the families argue, because they failed to equip the guns with safety locks. And the grandfather should pay because he didn't keep the guns locked up.
* The shooting of nine students, two fatally, in Pearl, Mississippi, prompted a lawsuit against the district, the police department, and the parents of students who belonged to the same satanic cult as the killer and allegedly knew of his plans. The school is liable, the families claim, because officials failed to act after reading the shooter's violent writings in his English class journal.
* The parents of victims of Kip Kinkel's murderous rampage at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon, have sued him and his deceased parents' estate, claiming that the parents failed to exercise parental control and negligently gave him the rifle used in the school shootings.
* In Edinboro, Pennsylvania, the family of teacher John Gillette has sued the 14-year-old who gunned him down at a school dance, along with his parents, claiming that they negligently gave their mentally disturbed minor child access to the handgun he used to commit the murder.
* In West Paducah, Kentucky, the parents of several victims have filed two separate lawsuits. One against some 30 school officials, including school board members, teachers, and principals, claims that the 14-year-old killer had written two violent stories in school about killing "preppies." The claims against these defendants have been dismissed, but the plaintiffs say they plan to appeal.
A second lawsuit seeks more than $100 million in damages from some 25 media and entertainment companies for producing the violent movies and video games that allegedly taught and incited the perpetrator to kill.
* And in Littleton, Colorado, the families of 18 victims have taken the first step in filing a civil lawsuit, notifying the county sheriff, the school district, and the killers' parents of their intent to sue.
Will any of these lawsuits succeed? That's hard to say, and the answer likely will vary from state to state.
Many school districts and their employees enjoy immunity from suit for injuries students suffer at school.
But several courts have recently allowed parents to sue school employees for their children's suicides, at least in cases where the employees had learned that the student was planning to commit suicide and did nothing. The same principle may be applied in the school shootings cases.
Last year, courts in Illinois, Georgia, New York, and California allowed victims of gun violence to sue the gun industry.
Borrowing a tactic from the tobacco litigation, 27 municipalities also have filed 17 lawsuits against gun makers.
Claims against video game and movie makers may also succeed. A Louisiana court last year allowed a shooting victim to sue the producers of the movie "Natural Born Killers." And one expert is certain that the Littleton families will sue the maker of Doom, the video game the two Columbine killers played obsessively, according to reports.[Sidebar]