Colorado school officials are considering a plan to demolish Columbine High School because of what they call a rising “morbid fascination” with the scene of a mass shooting in 1999.
“In 1999, no guidance existed on what to do with a building such as Columbine High School. Today school safety experts recommend tearing down buildings where school shootings take place,” Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Jason Glass said in a letter obtained Thursday by HuffPost. “Since the morbid fascination with Columbine has been increasing over the years, rather than dissipating, we believe it is time for our community to consider this option for the existing Columbine building.”
The Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education is requesting feedback from the community and may ask for an additional $60 million to $70 million on the November ballot to construct a new high school that would have the same name, mascot and colors, according to the letter. Glass reportedly said that about $15 million that’s part of a bond program previously designated for the high school can go toward the new building or be redistributed to other schools in the county for upgraded safety features.
The school experienced one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history 20 years ago, when two students killed 13 people and wounded nearly two dozen others before killing themselves on April 20, 1999. Since then, a gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007; a gunman killed 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012; and a gunman killed 17 people last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The Parkland massacre catalyzed a renewed movement to seek legislation to prevent gun violence, specifically in schools.
Glass said the Columbine massacre “serves as a point of origin for this contagion of school shootings,” adding that “school shooters refer to and study the Columbine shooting as a macabre source of inspiration and motivation.”
“Columbine High School has a gravitational-pull for these sorts of individuals. Annually, local law enforcement and Jeffco’s Department of School Safety make contacts with hundreds of individuals seeking to enter the school and reconnect with the 1999 murders,” the letter said. “Most of them are there to satisfy curiosity or a macabre, but harmless, interest in the school. For a small group of others, there is a potential intent to do harm.”
After the shooting, Columbine demolished its library because it was where most of the deaths occurred. The school replaced it with an atrium and built the larger Hope Library to honor the victims. School officials are considering keeping Hope Library to make it a cornerstone of the new building.
The new school would reportedly have more extensive safety features, better monitoring and would be designed for privacy within the school.