Saturday, December 7, 2019

Evidence Ignored: What You May Not Know About Columbine

Today's post isn't Christmasy at all. In fact it almost takes a solemn twist because of the topic -- school shootings. For those who have been following me for more than a decade know that I was considered a School Safety Expert. I authored the book Crisis Alert System Implementation and trained principals and teachers across the United States, Egypt, Singapore, United Kingdom, and many, many other countries on how to handle school shootings. Please know that I wrote this book before the shooting occurred at Columbine. I also consulted with the United States Department of Education on school safety measures. So, when I came across Rita Gleason's book, Evidence Ignored: What You May Not Know About Columbine, I immediately took interest. The more I learned about the book, the more I believed that it was timely to tell everyone about it. At Christmas, many people, including youth, are depressed. Some show symptoms, while others keep to themselves. If anyone of us can learn to recognize symptoms, we will be in a position to help others and offer guidance where they can get help. I don't know about you, but we don't need another school shooting, we've had too many. So, I challenge each reader to read Rita's book and learn from it so we may each do our part.



Evidence Ignored presents an unfiltered account of the events that led to the tragedy at Columbine High School. Despite the mountain of police reports, journal writings, video and audio transcripts that have been released, the general public knows only what has been presented to them; information distilled by a variety of law enforcement officials and journalists. No understanding of this senseless attack can be gained if we ignore vital pieces of information. Evidence Ignored seeks to set the record straight, outlining all that is known about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in hopes that it will help to open a dialogue of how we, as a society, can better recognize at-risk kids and step in before we face yet another Columbine.


Evidence Ignored: What You May Not Know About Columbine

Tell your readers a little about yourself, where you grew up, where you live now, where you went to school etc. Let them get to know the personal you.
I grew up in Poughkeepsie, NY and graduated from Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. I practice small animal medicine in a suburb of Cincinnati, OH and my primary interests are Internal Medicine, Behavior, and ultrasonography. I developed an interest in true crime and the psychology of criminals as a teenager; much like veterinary medicine, it involves a gathering of evidence and a puzzling together of the facts to find the solution. If I did not have such a passion for animals, and such an aversion to confronting a real-life criminal, I might have pursued a career in criminology.

What inspired you to author Evidence Ignored: What You May Not Know About Columbine?
When I was a junior in high school, a sophomore on my school bus murdered his parents, little brother, and attempted to murder his sister. Not only was the crime, and my proximity to it, shocking, but it was also my first lesson in the ways in which the authorities and media can influence the public's perception of an event based upon what information they choose to provide. My own observations of the boy, the reports from his friends and girlfriend after the shooting, as well as insight from a relative with ties to law enforcement, helped me to realize that much may be left out of a true-crime narrative.

Like many, I've always found the attack on Columbine High School to be particularly disturbing. It was, in many ways, the genesis of modern school violence. Upon delving deeper into the case, I recognized a similar pattern of reporting, in which omission of details that detract from a neatly packaged account of the event was commonplace. Unfortunately, this has led to many misconceptions about what led up to this tragedy and has prevented us from effectively using it as a model to help identify and intervene with other children who might be heading down a similar path. My goal in writing this book was to present all of the available information in this case in order to encourage a re-evaluation of the current, accepted narrative and to challenge others to acknowledge that explanation of a crime should fit the majority of the evidence and that selectively utilizing only those facts that support a particular contention does nothing to advance true understanding of the event.
Where did you get the inspiration for your Evidence Ignored: What You May Not Know About Columbine cover?
Columbine High School has become synonymous with school violence; the cover juxtaposes the symbol of what should be a safe haven for children against a haunting reality that, in modern times, tragedy can strike anywhere.

Who has been the most significant influence on you personally and as a writer?
As I've grown older I've learned that personal influences morph over time. As a young woman, I looked up to pioneering primatologists, Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey. Trailblazers in their respective studies, they entered into a male-dominated field and it was forever changed. I am still in awe of both women, and ever so slightly regretful that I didn't try to emulate them. However, these days I'm more inspired by ordinary people who choose what is right, especially when it isn't easy, and who go out of their way to be kind, particularly to those who need it most.

What were your struggles or obstacles you had to overcome to get Evidence Ignored: What You May Not Know About Columbine written?
There is a vast amount of information in the Columbine case, including roughly 30,000 pages of police documents, video/audio clips, and autopsy reports, in addition to special agency investigations, academic papers, newspaper articles, and books. It took a lot of time to carefully go through all of these resources, take pertinent notes, and figure out a way to present it clearly and cohesively.

Tell your readers about Evidence Ignored: What You May Not Know About Columbine.
Evidence Ignored seeks to present a more balanced view of the events that led up to the attack on Columbine High School in 1999. All of the facts set forth are cited as to source so that the reader can easily research further on any topic if desired. The book explores how Harris and Klebold were bullied, as well as how they bullied others. While bullying was not likely the main cause of their actions, it was by all accounts a significant issue at Columbine and reports to the contrary have no basis in fact. Evidence Ignored refutes claims that Klebold was little more than a follower and pawn of the single-minded Harris, and it dispels the notion that the latter was an irresistible charmer who had no problem securing dates and was universally admired by those who knew him. Within its pages, the reader can learn the truth about the Trench Coat Mafia, what effect, if any antidepressants had on Eric Harris's state of mind, as well as which persistent rumors can finally be laid to rest. If you have ever wondered anything about this American tragedy, it has likely been addressed in my book or I can direct you to where the answer may be found.

Who is your target audience, and why?
Readers interested in true crime and those who want as much information as they can get their hands on in order to be able to understand and form an educated opinion about a case.
I also believe that the book will be of interest to those who work with children, whether it be teachers, administrators, counselors, or social workers, etc. By showing them the problem behaviors that were exhibited by Harris and Klebold, and how they were either ignored or missed entirely, the aim is to help child advocates to recognize and intervene on the behalf of other troubled kids.

Finally, I would hope that segments of law enforcement might find the information useful, and this includes learning from some of the rather large missteps of the police agencies involved in this tragedy.
What do you consider your greatest success in life?
My child.

What one unique thing sets you apart from other writers in your genre?
While most true crime authors reference the sources of their information, I believe I am the only one to put together appendices and a highly detailed reference list and encourage readers to utilize them to learn more about themes of particular interest to them. I am also working on developing my website to be a resource for researchers to make exploration of the case evidence more user-friendly and accessible.