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More Stories From The Hellmouth

JonKatz posted more than 15 years ago | from the struggling-to-understand dept.


More stories from the Hellmouth that is High School for many bright, individualistic American kids continued to pour in yesterday. They are jarring testimonials from kids, adults, men and women. In the past four days, I've gotten well over 2000. These stories, many of them painful and engraged, tell us more about what happened in Littleton, Colorado -- a lot more -- than the dumb, exaggerated, frightening alarms about video games, Goths and geek monsters pouring out of much of the mainstream media. Update: 04/27 07:44 by CT : Sharon Isaak from Dateline NBC wants to get in touch with folks to do a story on this subject for this show. She's specifically seeking Jay of the Southeast, Anika78 of suburban Chicago, ZBird of New Jersey, Dan in Boise, Idaho, but he'd also like anyone who's been targetted as a result of this thing to contact her. Wonder if they make ya wear pancake makeup...

The messages started coming in a trickle Friday afternoon, then a torrent by Monday. They were wrenching, sometimes astonishing, an electronic outpouring of anger and compassion.

These jarring testimonials explained more - a lot more - about Littleton than all the vapid media stories about video violence, Goths, game-crazed geeks.

For a writer, there? s nothing more humbling than to be at a loss for words. I can't do more justice to these stories than to let them speak for themselves.

By last night, I had received thousands of e-mails about life in junior and high school. Few remembered it fondly - none, in fact. Some had unbearable memories. Some are still recovering. Many more are still there, suffering every day.

Many of you wrote asking if you could help these kids. Others wondered if there was any way to get the message about their lives out beyond Slashdot, if these stories might reach the mainstream media in some form.

Don't worry about that. The column and the responses to it richocheted all over the world, via e-mail, mailing lists, links, even faxes. There were scores of requests to reprint. For any others, and on behalf of Slashdot, be my guest.

On the Net, ideas don't need to be pushed. They find their own audience and stand or fall of their own weight. Eventually, I will answer each e-mail, and am grateful for them.

In the wake of the killings in Littleton, Colorado, here are more stories from The Hellmouth, from its current and former children:

From Eric near Littleton, Colorado:

"?I live just a few miles north of the school between the same streets. I'm a geek under the skin. I was a state champ in the high jump, and the leading scorer on the track team, so I was not quite the outcast that some of the geeks are, but I understand what they are going through. I wasn't very popular despite being the big athlete on campus, but I at least had respect.

I am very happy to see you and Slashdot carrying coverage of "the other side" of the story; the side nobody else wants to look at. These outcast kids are now being swept under the rug at best, and prosecuted at worst."

From Josh, a Slashdot reader:

"I was much like those kids when I was in school - weird, cast out, not much liked, alienated, all that sort of thing'I used to imagine bringing weaponry to school and making the fuckers who made my life miserable beg for mercy. (I was never sure what to do then, though. Do I let them go? They won't have learned, and after that, I could never turn my back. Do I kill them? I really just wanted to be left alone'Remember the scene in "Ender's Game.") I think my parents and their support made a lot of difference to me."

From John of Austin:

"?you can probably imagine the emotional scars that I still tote around with me at age 26. I still have yet to go to college, I have shelves upon shelves of books that I have bought, read and committed to memory. From literature to computer programming, there is no one that I can't have a meaningful and informed conversation with.

But to this day, the thought of entering another educational institution to prove that I have the facilities to be a ?meaningful? member of society makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end and turns my stomach inside out.

"I am the father now, and as such I worry about the kind of life my son will lead, too much at times, I'm sure'A few weeks ago I was watching the TLC (The Learning Channel) or the Discovery channel, and there was a special on the social structure within the United States prison system on. While I was watching it, I was thinking to myself just how similar it was to the social structure we find in schools.."

From John, who's 37 years old:

"What this really means to all my fellow young geeks out there? Endure. It may take a year, or two or five, but we will win'All those preps, jocks, etc., etc., will have their Ms. degrees, 2.5 kids, a job at Circuit City as an assistant manager, will be wondering where their life went, when we are coming into full bloom and taking over the world."

From Dan:

"How dare you glorify these scum? They were Nazi thugs, nothing more, nothing less. They are brutal murderers. They planned this on Hitler's Birthday, for God's sake. What kind of creep are you? How dare you compare them to geeks? They deserved everything they had coming to them, and so do you. May they rot in Hell."

From Kevin, a parent:

"I am married, have two wonderful little kids, and am, by conventional measures, considered "successful." I'm also a computer geek, a nerd, and still have painful memories of the emotional and physical trauma I sustained in high school. I still attend counseling regularly. I still take anti-depressants every day and will probably continue to do so for the rest of my life.

"Did I feel hate and rage for my attackers? Oh, yes. But I could never do anything about it and couldn't get anyone to help me. The only advice I got from my parents was to just ignore the bullys and eventually they'd leave me alone. Fortunately, I don't seem to be pre-disposed to violence or was too much of a coward to consider it. I can, however, see how the wrong kid in the wrong situation could go over the edge."

From Peter in Boston:

"I am a geek, and very proud of it. I have been beaten, spit on, pushed, jeered at. Food is sometimes thrown at and on me while teachers pretend not to see, people trip me. Jocks knock me down in the hallway. They steal my notes, call me a geek and a fag and a freak, tear up my books, have pissed in my locker twice. They cut my shirt and rip it. They wait for me in the boy's room and beat me up. I have to wait an hour to leave school to make sure they're gone.

Mostly, I honestly think, this is because I'm smarter than they are, and they hate that.

The really amazing thing is, they are the most popular people in the school, while everybody thinks I'm a freak. The teachers slobber all over them. Mostly, the other kids laugh, or walk away and pretend not to see it. The whole school cheers when they play sports. Sometimes, I want very much to kill them. Sometimes, I picture how I'd do it. Wouldn't you? But unlike those guys in Littleton, I never will. I value my own life much more. When I read these messages, I would ask other geeks to try and remember that, no matter what. And get online and make contact."

From Rory in Chicago:

"Would you bring a kid abused by his family to counseling and call him the problem? If that kid expressed rage and anger toward the world, we would call it a product of his abuse, and try to help him with this rage, treating him as the victim. However when it is other kids abusing each other, we treat the abusees as the problem and ignore the abusers altogether. Hunting down and persecuting the abusees is only going to alienate them further - not only with their peers be persecuting them but so will their parents and teachers."

From Jason, a Slashdot reader:

"Jon, please take these e-mails'and take them to CNN, ABC, NBC, whoever, what ever. Make them heard, and stand up for all of us! Geeks = different, different = okay, if not better! Make my mother understand, sweeping problems under the rug, or simply not dealing with them, doesn't do jack shit! And there's a bigger problem, it's them!

The people who think being different is bad, being geek is bad, TV, Games, the Internet, all bad! It will be hard, a minority against a majority! But please do it!"

From Evan: "I am 24 years old, and a successful professional now, but the, fifteen years ago, I was in the Hellmouth. Just wanted to shout some small form of encouragement out to the kids fighting today. Take your fight for the right to be different to the people with power, and enlist your parents? help. Remember that if you can get your parents to understand your need to be creative, and non-conformist, because your brain is just plain bigger than the small world of middle and high school, your parents can make a fuss to school boards. But if they won't listen, go to the school boards yourself. Peacefully, but forcefully, assert your right to be different by speaking out against fear and oppression. Because that's what it is. It's all about the fear.

People fear what they don't understand, and let's face it, the world of a geek isn't something most people can understand, if only because it's a complicated world filled with smart folks. And most people aren't complicated smart folks. You have GOT to break them of the fear. You gotta explain that it's an outlet, like racquetball or bridge. You have to explain it's not violent, it's colorful. You want violent? Look at football, look at sports.

That's REAL ACTUAL violence, not the simulated, stylized, far from even looking-real violence of video games or D&D (Dungeons and Dragons). And for a real kicker, ask them how many geeks are arrested for violent crimes and misdemeanors when compared to popular athletes."

From Cory, a high school student:

"I go to a private high school and on Wednesday in religion class I told the class, because we were on the subject that I could understand what would drive them (the killers in Littleton, Colorado) to do it. They said that it couldn't happen at our school and I responded by saying that it could because back in my freshman year it was so bad (the jokes, abuse, etc.) that I wished I had had a gun at home. I am a Senior now and 9 days from graduation. News got to the administration and I was suspended until I received an evaluation by a psychologist and was deemed safe to return to school. I have not been back to school since."

From MishtaE: "I've been out of school for awhile (not very long) but I still physically shake, I feel adrenaline go through my system when I think about my own junior high experiences'The feeling of hopelessness, of knowing that you have no one to go to who can or will make it STOP is a very horrid feeling. It makes you consider irrational things, because the rational ones obviously don't apply.

"But make no mistake, the cruelty inflicted on kids doesn't magically go away when you graduate (or drop out and get your GED at 16 as I did). You live with it, you learn to deal with it, but it's still there, and it does change you."

From LHRunkle, a self-described geek Mom:

"?my six-year old wonders why he isn't popular on the block, but does not enjoy racing his bike, or playing soccer. (Soccer is becoming fun.) He also wonders why noone else is reading the books he is. The online community did not exist when I was in high school, but geek culture did. Dungeons & Dragons (the original three-booklet set) and science fiction saved me.

"How many scared parents have taken the time to introduce their child to the items that kept them sane in high school? How many high school libraries are even allowed to stock Theodore Sturgeon, or all of Robert Heinlein? Before we go to Net culture, we need to face local culture. How many schools enforce a respect-for-all policy, and enforce it fairly? I know that I have a budding geek, and if I can get him sane through the next thirteen years, there will be another decent adult on this planet."

From Simon:

"The mainstream is missing the point. All over the world, "geeks" are standing up and saying "This is horrible and I know what cause it" and all over the world people are saying "Oh, my God! Another killer!" I'll spell it out: "The killers are a symptom of the alienation of an unrecognized minority - the geeks." No, that doesn't make it right. No, that doesn't mean a thousand more killers are lurking in the computer rooms of your schools.

"Failure to understand this severely limits your ability to correct it. I read with dismay that geeks are being cut off from the Internet and violent online games so that they "won't become killers."

Follow my logic here:

"Given: The killers were motivated in no small part by alienation. Reducing a persons contact with like-minded people increases their alienation. Reducing a person's sense of identify increases their sense of alienation. Geeks tend to communicate with each other via the Internet and online games.

"Conclusion: Cutting geeks off from each other (Internet access) and their identity (choice of clothing) will increase rather than decrease the likelihood of violence."

"I've been wracking my brain to figure out what stopped me (from hurting someone). I've been asking myself "what can I hand to people to fix this?" The answer is very simple. The faces are very clear in my memory of the few "popular people" who took the time to talk to me and find out about me. There are maybe a half a dozen. They showed me that they were people too.

I heard a report, it may not be true [it is] that one of the killers went and told one of his classmates before the killing, "I like you. Go home." If that happened if you are that person, you know that your attitude saved your life. If there were a few more like you, maybe it would have saved everyone."

From Armadillo:

" I thought I had put this behind me but I obviously haven't. This whole past week has really torn me up inside because 15 years ago, I was one of those kids. Because HS for me was sheer and utter Hell. I have no single memory that I can recall as being good.

I have no single person who I can recall as a friend. Hell, even the OTHER rejects kicked me around. I feel like I'm seeing this all through the eyes of a refugee from a war, who by some circumstance is rescued, taken off to a land far from the conflict, far from the danger and death and constant fear and destruction.

Years later, after having made some personal peace with the past, if not the people, they hear or see a report that their former home town or village has been bombed and the people they knew killed and it all comes flooding back.

"Why is it that we as geeks, freaks, nerds, dorks, dweebs'have to suffer while the clueless, bow-headed, tostosterone poisoned "normal" people are allowed to get away with murder'I wonder just how many outcasts have been driven to suicide because of just one too many tauntings or practical jokes on a particular afternoon?

"Why do we murder the spirits of our most gifted and talented young people? THEY are the ones that are our future. THEY are the ones that are best equipped to build the world to their hopes and dreams. The prom queens and cheerleaders will have their 15 minutes and then take their places among the teeming masses of consumers. They have already shown they want to be lead around and are more than happy to let society tell them where to go and what to do."

From Nick:

" I'm a junior in high school in a suburb of.... I felt that in light of what happened last Tuesday and your recent article on Slashdot, I should respond. Recently, one of my friends, Chris, was suspended for three days. He's an athlete (football and shotput), but is no means considered a "jock" as he plays computer games, reads fantasy novels, plays Warhammer 40K, etc. One person, Ryan, considered a "nerd" by his peers, mislabeled him [Chris} as a jock and decided to taunt him verbally. Chris is normally a nice guy who's never been in a fight before, as he gets along with most students. This verbal abuse continued for almost the entire school year so far.

Last Thursday, Chris slapped Ryan upside the head due to a particularly nasty thing that was said and Ryan picked up a chair, shouting death threats and swears. They were quickly broken up by the teacher and hall monitors, and were escorted to the dean's office.

Normally, each would only get a 1 day in-school suspension for what they did, but due to the incident in Colorado, each got three days and counseling by the school psychiatrist for the remainder of the year. The deans obviously overreacted, given the circumstances. What the main problem is here is that years of torment in people like Ryan's lives have led to such "classes" -- Goths, nerds, freaks, preps, etc. People form together in cliques where people are distinctly filed into the social pecking order. The high school situation could (and is) leading to a French Revolution-esque "class war" where social outcasts decide to say enough with the years of torment. Unfortunately, this is happening sooner than we think.

From Sally:

"The irony in the current coverage, at least to me, is that I remember my leather-jacketed, spiky-haired, combat-boot wearing friends as being for the most part peaceful, gentle, sensitive types - lots of vegetarians and anti-nuke people. Sure, there were a few who probably could have benefited from some therapy, but most of them were - and are - the nicest, kindest people I knew, despite their rather alarming appearance. After all, we had to be like that - we all knew what it felt like to be shoved in a locker, spit on, have stuff thrown at us, etc. I seem to remember the football players and other jocks as being a lot more violent and given to fits of rage and other displays of aggression.

... I certainly agree that the two shooters in Littleton were deranged boys filled with hate, But it's a fine line between a supposedly "well-adjusted" teenager [who bashes freaks] and a disturbed one."

From Matthew C in Wisconsin:

"I, like many of the Slashdot audience, was one of those those kids in high school, and junior high, and elementary school. I have suffered what those kids suffered, and continue to suffer. I made it through, but apparently not everyone does. The response to your article seems to suggest that there are many of us out there who want to help do something to curb the backlash to focus on the correct issue. I was wondering, in your surely large catalogue of responses to this column, have you found any hints of where we might send letters? Or who we might contact, to start telling people what the real problems are?

I want to help. I want to write, to talk, to help ensure that geeks of today and tomorrow aren't further persecuted for pursuing differences from the norm. We have to spread the word far and wide, teachers, parents and people who should know better than to ban trenchcoats, take away computers, and further drive their kids into depression and isolation. How can we organize something meaningful?"

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There are others that feel like this Speak up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1913998)

I am going to go to NBC, CBS and any others and send them a e-mail asking for someone there to read these stories. The over 500 comments made the yesterday and then report on that. I you to wish to I am sure that with enough people saying "hey look over here" we will be able to get them to listen

general question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1913999)

Perhaps this is pointless, perhaps it will end up on 'ask slashdot' But I think all this comes down to one important question: What can I (generic computer geek with no kids) do about this? In terms of possibly making high school better or educating the media about the fact that Doom has absolutely nothing to do with why there are dead people in Colorado. Any suggestions?

Maybe it is America.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914000)

well we have access to everything USA's kids have... except the GUNS! anyway I can tell you from my past that here in canada, stories like that also happens without needing of labeling anyone... The basic stuff... Tough ones beat the non-violent or the weak ones. The old grade school bully story... anyway from what I can tell, all those who laughed at me are now having a low-profile degradating job while I'm attending university... So I say : "the hell with those bastards we shall prevail"

A bug in our culture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914001)

The circumstances which led up to this tragedy are caused by a bug in our culture. Perhaps, the attitudes prevalent in our culture were once useful. In a small society, struggling to propogate, individualism was a bad thing.
Times have changed and we need an upgrade to version 2.0.
To the kids out there being persecuted, hang in there, sensible adults ARE listening. Don't let them win, don't let them create a self-fulfilling prophesy. Things WILL get better, but it will take time. Be a part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Revenge of the nerds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914002)

I read these stories of youthful nerds in distress
and I recall my own angst at the same time in my life. That was 40+ years ago and it still hurts at times. The beatings, the heckling, being ignored, looked through, excluded from groups, cliques, just plain isolated. Worse, the institutions and officials from my youth participated in the harrasment: Why don't you play sports? You are a loner; make friends, join a club. Go to church. Parents of peers weren't much better; their kids were too good to fratranize with us geeks. ... Sigh ... What's done is done; move on.

... but, I have my revenge. While my cohort was busy playing sports, joining the "Latin Club", partying, being cliquish, in my isolation I was plotting my revenge and studying. I never went to college after high school; The thought of more of the same, just different environment was just too much to contemplate. Nonetheless, I achieved my revenge long ago: good skills, a good career, strong values, tolerance for others, affluence, a good life. As the say: "Living well is the best revenge."

Where are they now? Well, the principal at my highschool went to jail for embezlement, a gym coach went to jail for molesting the boys, a bunch of jocks were cannon fodder in Viet Nam; good riddance to bad rubbish. There are a few career civil servants, mostly tradesmen. One really, really does flip burgers still; at 55! For the most part, I wouldn't piss up their collective assholes if their guts were on fire.

Where are the geeks among us? First, there were very few of us. For the most part we are the successful technocrats of business and industry. We done good.

Now, I can't help tie the disdain for geeks to the shortage of engineers and other technical professionals to the abuse I recieved a the hands of peers and 'the system' so long ago. I would also suggest that the harrasment of geeks today causes many to "just go along with the system", to avoid the harrasment: forced mediocrity, if you will. Being smart, studious, well educated is just not the in thing.

Why did I turn out the way I did, rather than waste a bunch of 'em? ... Good genes, strong encouragement from parents, a few, precious few, good teachers.

Ob joke:
Q: What does a Liberal Arts grad say to a CompSci grad?
A: You want fries with that?

kids should know that high school sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914003)

The reason is that high school kids treat each other like crap. Its just the way they are. Its the root of this problem, and there's probably nothing that can be done about it.

It's true that it's going to be impossible to get people in school to treat each other with respect. But that's not the real problem, at least as I see it.

The problem is that, unlike any other part of life, in school you can't get away from the people who are treating you like crap. The government forces all these people to be there, whether they get along or not. It's like sticking too many rats into the same cage -- they turn on each other. Not that kids are rats, but you get the point.

Instead of wasting time emailing school boards and congresscritters, who not only have no interest in understanding but lack the capacity, if the geeks want to fight back there is one thing they can do: stop going to school. I don't mean just ditch class; I mean an organized, internet-coordinated campaign to BOYCOTT these society-condoned prison camps.

I was one of the geeks myself back when I was imprisoned in the state's re-education camps. I amused myself between beatings by figuring out where to place the plastic explosives to ensure the building's complete obliteration. The only reason I didn't snap is that I realized it wasn't the other students that were the problem, it was the fact that I was being forced against my will to BE THERE in the first place. Blowing up a school wouldn't change the law that made me -- under threat of myself and my parents being thrown in jail -- have to be bused to that soul-crushing farce day after day after day.

The result of my own time in school is that I have no love or loyality to this society that mind-raped me for 12 years of my life. If the US wants to keep destroying it's best and brightest, fine with me... that will hasten the day when this cursed place falls into history's dustbin.

Not only should those geeks currently forced to attend those prisons attempt to boycott them, those of us who have already survived can help as well. What would happen if no school or education authority could find a programmer anywhere at any price? All this rhetoric about how "geeks rule the world after graduation"... that's just bull if we don't bother to USE that power. Maybe we can save the kids, unlike no one bothered to save us.

One Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914004)

I come from sort of a unique view on this. I was a geek in HS, but I was generally accepted. Being a geek also sometimes entitled me to specail priveleges. Me and a friend of mine were pretty much the only computer geeks in the school at that time (the teacher in charge of the computers knew how to use WordPerfect and other apps, but that was about it), so we spent much time helping the school counselors with their PC's. We got out of school most of the day one time to clean up after a virus that affected ~80% of the PC's. We were probably ridiculed behind our backs, but generally not to our faces, I beleive I was well-liked, and I had friends in many of the other clique's.

What I noticed, however, was toward the end of the school year my senior year was that the class sort of came together. I think it happened some time during our senior trip. We began to have fun together, and by the end of the day, we were talking to and laughing with people we hadn't talked to since the third or forth grade.

My solution is that instead of "accepting" all members of the "caste" system in HS, the system itself should be abolished. I mean, those groups don't exisit in the workplace to that extent, why should they exist in HS, which is suppsosedly supposed to be preparing us for the "real world" (the fact that it doesn't is a whole different thread altogether). I feel that the "walls" could be torn down by doing teambuilding excercises (sounds corny -- I know), having students work in randomly chosen teams, etc. Sure, your're still going to have the occasional jerk who still makes fun of the different kids, but when the different kids are friends with everone else, the jerk is going to be the outcast.

Did you even read the message clips? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914005)

WTF? "All kids suspended for fighting or making threats should be made to take a personality inventory test and if necessary removed from school. -- Jugger" What's it going to say in the "test"? "Do you ever get urges to bring a gun to school and kill people?" or something like that? Get a clue; that's not going to solve the problem of violent tendacies.

I'm glad I dont go to school..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914006)

As a homeschooler I have few friends (compared to?).
And some people think I'm not getting the education
I should (to work at McZargles?)
But I think it's totaly worth it. I don't feel like
killing anyone, I get to learn Linux and Perl instead of how to use a condom and
I already have work doing scripting.

I'll be playing Unreal all night.

Amen. In the end, geeks win. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914007)

The words, 'jock', 'popular', 'cheerleader', and 'captain of the X team', sure don't help you when you start looking for a job. They didn't work. They were cool. Now they're struggling to make ends meet. This is why I feel no pity for so much of the down and out. Everyone gets where they today are depending on the choices they made in the past.

"Yes buddy, I do have a quarter, but you ain't gettin' it."

I think you're missing the point... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914008)

Yes, the people who killed the 12 kids & 1 adult before killing themselves were sick individuals.

I don't think you'll find anyone disputing that.

The article shows that the abuse of kids is systemic -- and uses the words of fellow geeks who personally (if anecdotally) suffered. Like one person said, High School is like being sent to jail.

The better kids -- smarter, more creative, or more compassionate -- tend to get the most abuse since they stand out. Even though waiting for adulthood will show that the abusers are working in some slummy job isn't much of a consolation since many adults still suffer.

The schools, teachers, and admistrators are at fault for turing away from the core problem and not addressing it.

Thier reaction to these _2_ sick individuals is to make anyone who looks like them or is some how unusual singled out and persecuted. It is bigotry, and it is based on ignorance and fear.

The letters Mr. Katz posted clearly and painfully spell out the deamon hunt going on now. It should be rejected and pointed out for the bigotry that it is, not supported as a reasoned response!

THAT is what is wrong and THAT is what people are responding to here.

My personal question is how much is this abuse costing us in $$$?

I'm a geek -- enjoy having friends call me that -- and don't presently from any abuse I suffered in grade school, but I definately understand.

Nerd Revenge/Things get better? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914009)

I don't think _becoming_ what those that tormented me in high school would be a 'victory' at all. But I _do_ think there is a sense of justice when I am suddenly well paid for my interests in computers and 'geek' things, while those that worshiped materialism and beauty in high school are now slinging fries.

What makes it 'winning' is that I am now the envy of those people, and I still could care less about them.

Life gets better after high school only if you mak (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914010)

As a geek who graduated almost two decades ago (back then weird was more likely to be used). I find the comments in this thread amazing similar to what occurred back then. I was lucky in that I was large and could grow a full beard at 16 -- most left me alone. In general high school was acceptable because I could do and express myself in ways that I was comfortable with.

Being deeply religious (rare for a geek but it does happen), I made a two year commitment to go on a mission after graduation. Being religious is easy when no one around you is (that individualistic streak), but when you find yourself surrounded by mantra chanting drones it gets very hard -- as a comparison, a prep rally does not even come close. An example, sixty people in a room, one by one each stands up and says the gospel is true. It is supposed to come from the heart, but if you don't stand up, the meeting does not end. Everyone stares at you until you break. I hunkered down and fulfilled my commitment as best I could -- did not survive with my faith intact.

The point? Know your personality, choose professions and personal relationships that will let you thrive (try the personality test [] ). If you don't, the high school experience will never end.

Survival skills (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914011)

I fairly successfully avoided being seriously
impacted by what other people thought about me
in high school. Certainly there was a point
(way before high school) where I _was_ affected,
but I learned how to ignore it (I didn't have
to do this on my own -- I had lots of support.)
The other key survival skill was keeping myself
busy. I didn't have free time when I was in high
school... was involved with all sorts of activities (and certainly I got picked on in all of them, but I decided I was mature enough to not need to deal with things at that low of a level). I had little to no non-organized social interaction with my peers. I (somehow) managed to be content even under these circumstances.

Now that I'm out in the real world, sitting at home all weekend isn't really acceptable, and there aren't organized activities unless I take initiative. I'm only slowly starting to come out of my shell. Now that I've started to realize what I did to myself, it seems somewhat non-human, like I was a robot or something. I don't really know.

Finally, I think I must say that these kids that seem to have started this discussion hardly seem to fit the "outcast" mold (if there is such a thing). I mean they had _friends_ (even if only each other) and stuff. That's what doesn't make sense to me.

Its IS America, but the Guns are only a part. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914012)

Posted by Dante_Aliegri [mailto] (

The Canadians do have most things that the Americans do, except the culture that has spawned rap, MTV, and M.Manson. The simple fact is that these kids would have done the damage whethere or not guns were easily available. They made pipe bombs, and they had to make those by hand. That implys that they had enough rage to build the supposed 50 bombs, (or part of those, if they did have help).

Nerd Revenge/Things get better? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914013)

You spoke to my heart. This is exactly how I feel right now. After being a nerd for years, I graduated and got a well paid job. Now I have money, cars, friends, girlfriend. I am going to the gym, wearing contacts and designer clothes. All I dream about in highschool is reality. And I am the unhappiest man alive. I am all empty inside, all shallow. I won, but I changed for that. And I hate the new me. And I gave my ideals away for this. At 24 is like my life doesn't have any sense, isn't going anywere. I am dying inside.

But I'm changing back. That is my only salvation. I got a huge buch of science books, a fast computer at home and an Open Source project for my free time.

Whish me luck.

wrong audience (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914127)

While the stories are interesting, the problem with this post and your previous one, is that you are preaching to the converted. The people outside of our 'little' group are the ones that need to hear this stuff. We already know it

The Story. Part II (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914128)

Posted by Nericus [mailto] (

I totally agree... I myself am a scarred geek, and I'm considering taking a VERY large chunk of bandwidth and distribute these messages to every teacher and school official I can get my paws on the e-mail addresses of....starting with my own hellhole Lamphere High School. The only thing that kept me from snapping was a female took interest in me as a human (a friend) and pulled me from the brink, I had gone to the extent that I was getting close to Littleton myself, except I'm much more creative. :) I've since mellowed now, comforted in the fact that Junior High & High School put enough emotional damage on me that I no longer feel pain, hurt and guilt. Usefull in this day and age, but the downside is that without guilt, there is no remorse...

kids should know that high school sucks (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914129)

I'm tired of people saying "nothing can be done" about the situation. Bullshit!!! There are a lot of things which can be done, starting with you. If you have a child, pay attention to your child. They need and want guidance from you, and if you don't provide it, they'll get it elsewhere.

If you don't have children, volunteer! Help out at a youth camp (it was one of the best experiences I've ever had), the YMCA, Big Brother, etc. If your siblings have children, lend a hand! If your friends have children, lend a hand!

Children practice what they are taught-- teach them respect and discipline, and they will be respectful and diciplined. Teach them fear, anger, and hatred, and they will be fearful, angry, and full of hate.

Remember: no matter how well trained or well-mannered the dog, if you kick it enough times it WILL bite. But even a mean dog can be tamed, and taught peace.

I challenge you now: make the world a better place, and earn your keep.

Christian E Becker

Cursing the killers a.k.a. 'Rot in Hell' (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914130)

Posted by Dante_Aliegri [mailto] (

I've noticed several posts from the previous Katz article (only read a few hundred) and one from this article saying the poster 'hopes they rot in hell'. Which I find quite... interesting. They were probably already roting in the preverbial hell of High School.

How To Win.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914131)

After almost ten years, I finally figured out my answer....(Although some people may think it cheesy)

I went to high school in a little town on the northern fringes of New York. It was a dairy farming community. Like so many people at /., I was bright and well read when I entered Jr. High. That started it. Daily teasing, girls flirting with me only to quickly switch to insults. Etc.
I didn't think it could get any worse.

Then I started high school. I made a few friends, and things looked better. We played D&D, listened to "Alternative" Music (which really was in those days. :) ) And so on.

One day I found a nasty, nabby old black oprea cloak in a closet, and I was dared to were it to school. And, of course I did....

Then the real teasing started. Accusations of drug abuse/dealing (I didn'ts) abounded, also baby-killing, satanism. But, sadly I'm just a really stuborn person and I didn't give ground. I continued to wear the cloak, more because of their ridicule than in spite of it.

Daily I was abused, used maxi-pads would be slapped on my back. People would walk behind me chanting "Babykiller" over and over and over.
That daily chipping away can really wear on you.

By the time I made it to graduation, it felt like I was crawling up to get my diploma. Not because I was defeated, but because I was tired, exhausted from constantly defending myself.

Then college came(beautiful ole CMU), I continued to wear the cloak, but suddenly nobody noticed....
I made friends, got into music, etc....

I still remember college fondly, but that is not when I won.

I won when after therapy, a new direction in my spiritual life, and a life threatening experience made me give up my anger.

The kicker was one morning (about a year after I graduated) I woke up with an uncontrolable shaking up and down my left hand side. The violent tremors continued non-stop day and night. My doctor told me it could be 1) cancer, 2) Lou Greighs(sp?), or 3) a viral infection of my nervous system. The first two would be fatal, the second temporary. For the next six weeks of no-work and medical testing I had nothing to do but think about how I might be dying.

I came to several conculsions. 1) All in All I'd had a pretty good life. 2) Life is just simply too short. 3) I wanted to stop being angry at the people who had scarred me so badly.

Somehow, when I made that realization. When I put 2 & 3 together and realized life is to short to stay angry, I realized I'd won.

Now I can't wait till my 10 year high school re-union (next year). I genuinely want to see these people again. Not to show off my beautiful soon-to-be-wife, or talk about my "cushy" software develpment job...

But to get to know them, for the first time.

There are Happy Geeks Too (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914160)

This is all so wierd; I wasn't just a Geek in high school, I was the Alpha Geek. The nerdiest of the nerds in most repects.

But yet I was happy. Sure, a couple of times in Grade 8 someone tried picking on me for who or what I was, but I fought back - hard - and they soon learned to leave me alone.

In fact, I went out of my way to try and get to know as many different people as I could; to have a foot in as many different groups as possible. To make as many friends as possible.

It takes courage to try and make friends, but it works. I could hang with anybody, and I had a BLAST. I'd happily go back to being in high school if I could.

And as I think back, I don't remember any truely unhappy Geeks. I remember one guy who had a particular religeous agenda to push (he was B'hai) who occasionally caught some verbal flak for his incessant expousing of his views, but he was respected for his courage to speak his mind, and certainly never beaten up. He may have been a little lonely, but I wouldn't say _abused_.

You know, it's cool to be happy. Surely I'm not the only one who was (and is!)


It's a Two-Sided Sword (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1914162)

While I understand the outcries against unfair treatment that are being expressed, I think it's also scary that many of these e-mails seem to express disdain and even hatred for ALL non-geeks. What these e-mails seem to ask for is acceptance and the control of their lives, yet they don't seem to recognize that not everyone else out there is against them or insensitive to them.

I come from a fairly unique position in this debate, having been on both sides. My experience through the 9th grade was that of the outcast. I was the guy that didn't really get much attention, was passed over in sports, ridiculed by other kids, and hit, tripped, etc in the halls and outside of school. Then, in about the 8th grade, I discovered that I could run. By my junior year I was captain of the track team, and everyone knew who I was. I still vividly remember the day in 9th grade where someone started to poke fun at me and one of the guys they were with said "Leave him alone, man, he's that runner."

Throughout high school I still had friends who were geeks, but I also had a lot of friends who were jocks, and I found that for most of them they weren't any different. Granted, there were those who were real jerks, but there were just as many geeks as jocks that fit the jerk category. I guess my purpose in writing this is to ask that all the geeks that hate jocks, do you really hate ALL jocks? It can be just as dangerous to stereotype one's enemies as it can be to be stereotyped yourself.

Becoming an Adult (1)

Aaron M. Renn (539) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914168)

I had a 4.0 GPA through high school. I wasn't an athlete, and I engaged in many geek-like things such as reading science fiction and playing on the computer. I was not made fun of though. Actually I had it pretty easy. I wasn't part of the ultra-popular group, but I was well liked. Partially it was because I made up for my good grades with lots of hell raising. I drank like a fish. (I used to chug half-pints of Kessler, for example). I was not above throwing eggs at teachers' houses or other bits of minor mischief. (Nothing serious though). But I was also liked because I helped the other kids out academically. Let's just say that with my assistance it was almost magical how the test answers appeared in some people's heads. Also, I attended a small, rural high school, with people who had mostly gone to school together for all 12 years. This made everybody pretty much get along.

But there were people who were mistreated severely, and I must shamefully admit that I took part in it. One day in my early 20's I reflected back on some of the ways I'd treated other people and recoiled in horror. That was the day that I truly realized I was an adult. When I understood that treating people so horribly was simply not acceptable. (Those who know me know I never tire of giving people a hard time, but it is always good natured - or behind their backs).

In sixth grade we had to transfer buses at one school to go to another. We all waited for the bus to empty before getting in. From time to time someone would yell out, "First one in the bus loves Tanya". Now Tanya was an extremely poor girl. She was also extremely thin. In retospect it is probable that she suffered from malnutrition. She always wore a random collection of worn out hand me downs. One particular outfit was an old green McDonald's uniform, that she was teased mercilously for wearing. While she wasn't terribly ugly by my recollection, for some reason she was considered the ultimate worst girl to be with. Nobody would ever admit they were in love with Tanya. So nobody would get on the bus. We would stand there for five minutes or longer while the school bus driver screamed as us to get on. Finally, Tanya herself (who was standing there the whole time) would get on, at which point someone would scream out "Last one on the bus loves Tanya" and everybody would rush the door, pushing and shoving to avoid being the last one on. Tanya was also subjected to numerous other forms of ridicule and I can only imagine how much this affected her. (I wish I could have just one more school dance so I could ask her on a date).

In high school there was a real classic nerdy guy named Wilbert. With a name like Wilbert, you know you're in trouble right off. He wore glasses. He read science fiction. His hair frizzed out all over the place. He was totally into computers. In retrospect, this guy should have been my best friend! But instead I was one of the ringleaders in making fun of him. (I even recall once getting a specific talking to from a teacher about this). I saw him at the 10 year reunion last summer. He was still a geek - and a successful one at that. He didn't appear to harbor any ill will - at least none that he cared to share with us.

Of course there were more. Mostly it was the girls who got mistreated. Particularly the fat ones. If you were a guy you could always make up for any deficiency in natural popularity by doubling up on the alcohol consumption. That's a sure fire route to respect.

I don't regret much in life. Well, I mean I regret things, but there are few things I would go back and change if I could. Who I am today depends as much on the bad decisions I made as the good. But if I could I would go back and treat certain people a lot better than I did. I'm not proud of the way I was as a kid, and I hope that I do a much better job of avoiding gratuitous cruelty to others today.

Shocking, but Not Surprising (4)

Aaron M. Renn (539) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914170)

It is shocking to see the way the principal'a and teachers treated students, especially in the aftermath of the Colorado killings. It reminds me almost exactly of the treatment Balint Vazsonyi received when he was a student in Hungary under both the Nazis and the communists. Think the wrong thoughts and you get "counseling" or kicked out or worse. (He describes this experience in his book "America's Thirty Year's War").

But while it offends, it is not surprising. Years of Supreme Court rulings have basically stripped students of anything resembling rights. It is legal for the school to force them to go through metal detectors to enter the building. Or to randomly search their lockers without cause. Or to censor their articles in the school newspaper. Or to install camers to monitor their every move. Or to force them to submit to drug tests if they want to participate in any extracirricular activity. For someone who spends 12 years in a school with armed police guards, cameras everywhere, random searches of their possession, metal detectors, and administrators with dictatorial powers, how will they every grow up into adults who behave as though they have freedom and rights? If you spend years with school guards who can search your locker at will, why would not think the police can search your car or home at will when you get older? It is very scary what is going on. (My description is accurate for many urban schools. Soon to be more suburban schools if I read things right).

And of course that one letter sent home by the principal encouraging students to rat on friends they think are acting "suspicious". That's also a tactic straight out of the Soviet Union, where children were invited to inform on their peers and their parents. Witness the DARE program as well (a program that is proven not to reduce drug abuse at all, BTW) where in some schools the students are told to inform the cops on their parents if they see drugs. (Included are lies about how the parent will simply get help - no mention of arrest) What kind of a message is that? The government is putting itself up as the ultimate authority figure in children's lives, supplanting the primary role of the parents in shaping their children's values.

There there are the "zero tolerance" policies. This is shorthand for zero intelligence in my opinion. Teachers can simply say bring a steak knife to school to cut the chicken breast your Mom packed for lunch, you're expelled (this happened in Indianapolis). It's so much easier than using judgement. You see, judgement requires intelligence, which is something far too few teachers and adminstrators have. With rare exceptions I was both smarter and more knowledgable than the teachers in my high school. Look at the average SAT scores of education students. I rest my case.

Of course teachers also value conformity to their way of thinking. It's makes their life so much simpler when they don't have to deal with the unexpected.

I am genuinely afraid for the future. I cannot even imagine sending my children to public schools.

Human nature (5)

maelstrom (638) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914174)

I've made it through the hell we call Middle and High School. I had some unique experiences because my father was in the Army and I got to go to another new school every other year.

I learned early on that you had to respond with violence in order to gain any respect. Not only was I the "new kid", but I was also a geek and I was in fist fights constantly starting in elementary school. I'm really quite a non-violent person, but if someone pushes me too far then I will fight back, and I suspect thats what happened with these latest school shootings.

I can well remember sitting in Middle School science class quite peacefully while a little bully gave me a "red neck" which is a term describing how the giver slaps the back of the givee's neck multiple times causing it to become quite red. He did this once and I sat there and did nothing. The sound of the skin being slapped went through the whole class room and the teacher sat there and didn't say a word. The bully did it again. My friend next to me says that I mumbled one more time and I'm gonna kill him or something to that effect, but I don't remember saying anything. The next time he did it I stood up threw him against the wall and proceeded to beat the tar out of him. Of course, THEN the teacher noticed and we were broken up and sent to the office. Now due to the zero tolerence rules we were both suspended even though I had never been in the office for any kind of trouble and my attacker was well known there. So, for standing up for myself in self defense, I received the same punishment as my attacker. In fact, we sat near each other during our 3 days in In School Suspension.

However, I could never think of doing anything like the TCM did because I had been raised with firearms. I was given a .22 rifle for my 13th birthday, I had hunter safety training and I joined the High School Rifle team (Varsity Letter no less). There's no way I could point an unloaded weapon at another human being much less a loaded one.

I think what saved me more than anything in my High Schools (I went to 4 different ones) was that I was a member of the JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps). It seems weird for me to say so, because it seems like such a non geek thing to be a part of. But I was a part of a large group of people that were jocks, geeks, freaks, and every other subgroup, and for the most part we all got along and had a bit of esprit d'corps to boot.

I suspect that if I were in High School right now I would be dragged into counseling. I've always had a fascination with Military History, Military tactics, equipment and everything else. When I was in the 5th grade I had a bizzare fascination with the European theatre of WW2 (well I WAS in Germany at the time). I read every book on WW2 in the library including LOTS on Nazis and Hitler. I spent much of my free time in front of a computer often connected to BBS' (where I first downloaded Wolf-3D long distance from Apogee BBS several minutes after it came out :). And last and certainly not least I would go down several times a week and shoot a firearm downrange and receive training on how to become a better marksman.

I'm sure it would be quite obvious to all these supposed "experts" that I was some raving psycho ready to let loose another school shooting. The worst part is, that every one of the activities I listed are what kept me sane through High School. Something about competitive shooting focused and calmed me more than almost anything could.

Well I guess this turned into a personal story which I didn't intend when I started.. What I really meant to say was that I suspect that many Geeks if given the chance to be in the Majority would discriminate against the Jocks and everyone else. Many of the posts I've read have stereotyped negatively ALL jocks. This is no better than stereotyping geeks and we need to realize this!

Who here would deny the fact that if Geeks ran the schools that everyone else would be taunted for running Windows and not Linux or *BSD? Or programming in Visual Basic and not C or Perl? There may not be as much physical abuse, but the mental abuse would be there...

I don't know what the answer is.. Humans have been forming into little groups and fighting with the other groups from the very beginning... The only good thing to come from this shooting is that at least we are finally talking about this.

Read this ;) (0)

PHroD (1018) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914188)

thats tasteless...but funny, i gotta admit that

"There is no spoon"-Neo, The Matrix
"SPOOOOOOOOON!"-The Tick, The Tick

Conditioned Response.... (1)

Danse (1026) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914189)

I posted a message like this yesterday, but wanted to post it again here. It's something that I think is worth looking at in light of the fact that nobody seems to want to look at the schools and parents and such as the problem.

School administrators and parents won't accept the responsibility for addressing the real problems here. They can't. To do so would mean accepting liability for the actions of the teens by admitting that the kinds of injustices that we just read about above happen in schools all over the country. In a society that will sue at the drop of a hat (let alone a serious situation like this one), they can't admit any fault. It would open up parents and schools across the country to thousands of lawsuits. So now we have school administrators that are conditioned to deny any and all responsibility for tragedies like this. Parents do the same. The can never solve the problem until they can identify and accept the real problem. They can't do that as long as they fear the crippling lawsuits that will inevitably come from that admission. Without massive media influence to make people understand and recognize the problem, there isn't much chance of schools actually doing anything about it on their own. If they were smart, they'd recognize it and quietly start doing something to fix the problem. I don't think they've shown themselves to be smart though.

No it is the Right Audience (1)

chris (1044) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914193)

For the people who do feel alone, this is the right audience. The young(er) people reading this are the ones going through it right now, The rest of us who have been paroled, can show them there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that geeks can have a very enjoyable life once they get out of the Public Education-prison system.

Take this to the Press ASAP. (2)

Masem (1171) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914194)

As others undoubtably have said, the press
is completely ignoring the side of the story
of the outcasts, casting them as anything
from crazed students to white supremists. But
what is not realized is how backwards
high school can be in terms of morals -- and
part of the problem is that the people involved
at this point (teachers, adminstrators, the
press) are *NOT* the ones that faced this stuff
when they went to school -- AFAICR, most of
the people that were the in-crowd went to
college degrees in social sciences, not
hard-core science. And until this point is
made clear to the press, which will then be
distributed to the public, it will be buried.

JohKatz, you should prepare all these stories,
including those of the students that spoke
up about this in school and suddenly found
themselves in trouble, and send them to
all the major press houses. Keep the letters
anonymous as you have done here, of
course, but make sure that the letters are
clear examples that the public high school
envirnoment is terrible.

Also, someone else made the point that while
the in-crowd people will end up with lousy
jobs while the nerds/geeks will get those jobs
to rule the world: the nerd/geek has been around
for at least 40 years (take a look at classic
TV; Eddie Haskle from 'Leave it to Beaver').
The bully has also been around. If nerd jobs
automatically lead to jobs of power, you'd think
we would already control this world; unfortunately, this is not true. Yes,
the nerd jobs are generally more prestigious
and make more money, but certainly have little
power behind them. It's people with MBAs
(CEOs, for example), and Pol Sci degrees
(gov't ppl) and Law School degrees that end
up with control over this world -- and those
areas are generally ones were you will find a
large lack of nerds/geeks, and a larger percentage
of the in-crowd.

Don't let this deter you from going to University (1)

Lars Clausen (1208) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914200)

I've been going through some of the some alienation as these letters describe, though on a much smaller scale, and I noticed it had scared some from going on to a university. Don't let the bullies do that!
From my experience, the universities allow much more diversity, and let you meet many more people like yourself. Plus, there are challenges for all levels of smartness. (And free net access!:) Go for it!


The sad part is, nothing will change. (3)

root (1428) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914202)

When the school reopens, the geeks will still be shunned and ridiculed. Anyone 'caught' making comments like the thousands Katz received will be subjected to the trauma of being ordered to receive 'counseling' or expelled. The lesson being that differing opinions and the improper use of words is itself a dangerous and heinous act to be suppressed. This just builds more tension and resentment toward a school system structured more like a prison than an educational institution. And no one, not the student, not the parents, not the media, will stand up to defend a different opinion because a paranoid society will only suppress such people harder. Some will, on mere reflex, curse them as nazi/homo/goth/deathsquad sympathizers. Others, particularly in the schools, where mind control is stronger, will try to convince them of the error of their wrongthink. They will be badgered, continuously, unendingly, letters written to their parents, physicians secretly notified, psychiatrists and social workers too, all behind their backs, the conformists see it as their God given mission to 'help' these people before (they just assume) they can hurt anyone else.

Please be careful (2)

jafac (1449) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914204)

I'm a 31 year old "geek sympathizer", and from recent experience, I've got to tell everyone out there that we're playing with fire here.

We're in the middle of a full-fledged backlash, and admitting ANY kind of compassion for "these monsters" can be very dangerous. I think it's best that people remain anonymous in this, and I also think that you have to be VERY careful of what you say and who you say it to. Especially if you're a minor. I know it sucks, and I know that's not the way things ought to be in America (TM), and it certainly isn't fair, but people are VERY sensitive out there right now.

I got into an argument about this with some neighbors, and I told them this story about the kid who posted yesterday (posted his picture), about being approached by a "jock", and being verbally abused, accused of being a Trench Coat Mafioso, and liable to snap and shoot everybody, then the jock spit on him and punched him. The response I got was not sympathy for the weird kid it was: "maybe people are really afraid right now".
That makes ME very afraid. Like they said in MIB. . "a person is smart, people are stupid panicky animals and you know it".
Truer words were never said.

I wouldn't be suprised if Jon Katz got his email inbox subpoenaed to locate these kids and cue them up for reeducatio- er, I mean counselling.

I wish I had a nickel for every time someone said "Information wants to be free".

No not martyrs... (1)

Chris Parrinello (1505) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914205)

As somebody else posted above, understanding someones actions does not condone it. I think Katz's articles and everybody's responses have probably been the closest I have seen to date about what is REALLY wrong with our schools.

I think it is in our best interest to figure out a way to make sure that kids like these two do not fall through the cracks. We need to make sure that they do not feel like they are alone and to at least given them hope that it will get better.

It's about time (1)

jd (1658) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914207)

As a kid who got beaten up at school (I know what a window looks like, at high-speed, head-first), I have to say that violence is never an answer.

On the other hand, when nobody listens, the anger has to go somewhere. In my case, I beat myself up, emotionally and sometimes physically. In their case, when they reached breaking point, they broke out the ammo & the high-power weapons. Same thing, really, though, when you get right down to it.

Above all, it's about time SOMEONE recognised that emotional abuse IS JUST THAT - abuse - and THAT, not the kids, the internet, the games, etc, is the cause.

Time for a separate Hellmouth page? YES (1)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914211)


How, about it? Anyone care to register the domain and set up a message board? I'd contribute $10 toward domain fees.

Email the article! (1)

Muck (2022) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914213)

Email that article (or a link to it) to every school official you can find on your districts web page... most have a website with at least email addresses. I did that last night, and I've already gotten back several responses, where the person at least read the article, one said she couldn't get to it, and she wanted to read it, so I pasted it in the email to her!, If enough people read that article, and it gets passed around to enough board members... maybe something will change 5 years down the road. Its already too late for me, I left school two years ago (got my High School Proficiency, because school was driving me insane...), but I'm hoping that by the time I have kids things will have changed, and that being smart or a little odd won't get them punished. So anyways, email that article to as many people as you can. Maybe it might make a difference somewhere :)

kids should know that high school sucks (1)

dsfox (2694) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914219)

If you're in high school, know this: for almost everybody, even the kids that look popular and happy, high school is just the most miserable time of your life. The reason is that high school kids treat each other like crap. Its just the way they are. Its the root of this problem, and there's probably nothing that can be done about it.

If you can get over it, things almost always get better.

The Story. Part II (1)

Mickey Jameson (3209) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914227)

That's pretty much what I wrote yesterday, and I too don't want to repeat myself.
When I was in high school, I made it a better place, at least for myself. I learned how to deal with the social injustices in subtle ways. I was an outcast. I was a geek. At first, I hated 90% of the jocks, 90% of the preppy bitchy cheerleaders, and 90% of the rest of the classes. It was the 10% of each that I managed to get along with that eventually saved my ass. Although I was a geek, my status went from the bottom of the barrel to close to the top... Just because I decided not to hate whoever was not like me, which was everyone... By the time I graduated, I had special privileges that nobody else had, and I was by no means an ass-kisser. But I had teachers eating out of my hand, the Bottomless Hall Pass (meaning I never needed one), and I could take 2 hour lunches if I wanted to. In the end, those 90% of people I wanted nothing to do with turned to 10%.
I made it a better place.
I went back to that high school one year later to visit some teachers.
Most of the boys turned into wiggers, and a lot of the girls turned into wigger chicks.
Vandalism was rampant. Major thefts occured (like stealing an entire lab's worth of computers), arson, blowing up toilets, breaking windows, and all that.
In the matter of one year.
I'm just glad I got out when I did...

Don't accept violent abuse in public schools! (5)

maynard (3337) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914228)

I think it's pretty clear that violent hazing of students lower on the totem pole of school society is both permitted, supported, and abused by school administrators and faculty in an attempt to maintain order. This simply must stop.

While I'm offended at the flagrantly violent abuses I endured from other students while in high school, I'm outraged that the administrators actually preserved this system of order. As an individual student I simply didn't know it was this pervasive throughout the American school system, nor did I realize to the extend at which public school faculty and administrators regularly use students to impose order upon other students in a caste system; this is reminiscent of the Brown Shirts of Germany -- imposing order through violence against the minority German Jewish population during the 1930's.

And lest you think that I'm taking this too far by drawing parallels with Nazi Germany, allow me to point out that I was assaulted several times by groups as large as six with metal chains on school grounds, and the faculty wouldn't do anything to preserve my safety because they claimed I didn't have any witnesses to back my story up. This is after they called me in to the administrative office and nursing station to find out why I had bruises all over my body, ostensibly in order to determine if my parents had been abusing me. Once they realized that in fact it was other popular students committing these crimes they lost all interest in the matter. So the school system would have called state protective services in an instant if they thought my parents had committed a violent crime against me, but once they realized it was popular students to blame they shut up and told me to go away (they didn't even suggest I should call the police). What assholes.

Damn, I haven't thought about this in years and I find myself getting outright pissed off thinking about it as an adult. We do not accept this behavior in adult life, why should we impose this abuse on our children?

Now I'm 31 and far from school grounds these days, but allow me to suggest to the younger audiences here on Slashdot that if you're experiencing this kind of violent abuse in school: drop out! Just go get your GED and immediately sign up for University or local Community College courses. Once you make it out of high school and start going to college (especially if you avoid those stupid fraternities), you will find that the adults behave civilized or they go to jail. Don't put up with violence, that high school diploma is meaningless compared to a decent degree and post graduate degree; never mind the emotional scaring you will likely avoid. And you don't need that high school diploma to get into college, you simply need to get good marks in a community college, or local state University, to transfer to just about any good private or public undergraduate institution.

I will never allow my children (when I do have children) into a public school because of these experiences.

I feel sympathy for both parties but... (1)

ferret (4281) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914235)

...I also feel like a Historian looking back on the event with cold analysis of events. I'm sure if I was closely involved I'd be a little less 'cold' about it. I feel sympathy for the killers because I know what it's like to go to public school and the suburban schools were the worst. City school was the best for me, I blended in easier with so many people being 'different'.
I've been in plenty of aggravated fights and left my mark (sometimes literally) on the provokers but that didn't in any way alleviate what you feel inside. OTOH, I think that if someone I knew was killed or injured I'd probably be in a rage. That's a big 'if game' and I don't play that game.
I'm relatively happy w/ my life since then and I do have many fond memories of that time though few had to do w/HS. Ironically, I found that many teachers were on my side and one even pointed out to me that they, students, were actually afraid of me even though I wasn't physically intimidating. Once I knew that, it made things a little easier on me and doubly ironic, I made more friends that final year. Too bad I wasn't let on to this til late in my Junior year.

Let's move on (1)

robbo (4388) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914237)

Jon, I appreciate what you're trying to do here, I really do- after all, you're trying to give people a voice, and that's what the net is all about. I think it's remarkable that so many of us connect with the Littleton shootings in such a personal way. I know I do. Even at the age of 25, and in spite of having had a reasonably good time in high school, I can identify in the same way- that nobody was bothering to listen, and that nobody really cared.

To me, those are the real issues, and we need to start moving on them. It's important that we talk, and it's important that we respond. Our (including both your American, and my Canadian) dog-eat-dog societies are unravelling at the seams, and it's time to take the time to listen to each other, and to validate each others' experiences.

We live in a world where empathy is in short supply, and the dominant messages of our time are driven by the bottom line, as opposed to human need. I hope we can learn to start caring for one another.

My $0.02


Violence and Quake / Doom / etc. (1)

Nafai (4472) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914240)

I don't believe that violence is inherently caused by playing games like Quake -- being a former game player myself. But, when I was watching the news, and hearing the descriptions of what went on in the schools, to be honest that was the first thing I thought of. "This is what I enjoy doing when I play those games -- killing people, just spraying bullets everywhere" It was a scary thought. Although it may not cause the violence, to me it is now all too realistic to what could sometimes happen that I could never touch one of those games again.

Reference "Dan" in article. (3)

neo (4625) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914241)

Understanding why these kids became monsters in no way condones what they did. While they may rot in hell for their actions, we must live in this hell... where people can't see past the mask to find the person underneath.

How are the outcasts supposed to deal? (1)

rafial (4671) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914242)

If either of the Colorado gunmen had been able to stand up in class and talk about the rage they were feeling, or speak to a guidance counseler about it, maybe none of this would have happened. But they knew that if they told the truth about how they felt, they would be punished, just as many of the messages Jon has received have described.

Instead, you bottle your rage up inside until you are triggered to lash out by the smallest, most inappropriate things. And you are punished for that. Repeat the cycle a few more times, and you get a psychotic vicious animal.

Over the past few days I've been reacting to the Colorado tragedy, and wondering why, while I'm sad at the loss of life, I feel more sympathy for the gunmen than any of the people that were killed by them.

I think the answer is that deep down I realize that given less fortunate circumstance (i.e. my parents making lots of sacrifices to take their kid out of the public school system where he was getting beaten up on a daily basis, and putting me into a private school) *I could have been one of those kids*.

I'm now 31, and it still hurts!

Other useful sites (1)

rafial (4671) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914243)

I'm already a fan of for their fine work in giving voice to unpopular opinions and dissent. Now they have some excellent coverage on Littleton.

Also, for those still *in* the Hellmouth, you might want to check out

I had the same thought... (1)

rafial (4671) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914244) I was driving home last night. I thought it should be called the Morlock Society, but both and are taken :)

No, seriously, those of us who remember what it was like, why can't we reach back to the kids who are coming after us?

this subject really gets to me. (1)

mazeone (5457) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914252)

I too had similar experiences in middle/high school. I still haven't had a sucessful experience with college, I still won't forgive my parents, and I'm still on anti-depressants from it. It sucks. The only thing that saved me was getting the hell out--I convinced my parents to send me to a small Quaker boarding school for the last two years of high school. There, the number of "freaks" was even with the number of "jocks", and I got respect from teachers and administrators. The only advice I can give to kids who are going through the same thing is to try to convince your parents to let you get out. There are good high schools out there, if you can convince your parents to let you go.

Read this ;) (0)

seva (5510) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914253)

Note: I didn't write this, author is by Paul C.
Contact me if you really need to reach him.
(Wasn't sure if he would care if his address appeared here)


200 rounds of ammo: $70

Two ski masks: $24

Two black trench coats: $260

Seeing the expression on your classmates' faces right before you blow
their heads off--priceless.

There are some things money can't buy, for everything else there's


It's a Two-Sided Sword (1)

wynlyndd (5732) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914257)

Well you tried to offer a story of hope with an example of your life, yet you only highlighted the problem a bit more. You had to resort to being one of them to avoid being picked on. Heck, the irony of our cliques and misconceptions is that someone had to tell the guy that you "belonged" to a group that deserved to be left alone. I'm not saying that you subverted yourself to become respected...heck you might even like to run, but the only time that things will be alright is if the guy who stood up for you had said "Leave him alone, man." Period. No qualifier. Just for being who you want to be.

Take this to the Press ASAP. (1)

Rubinstien (6077) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914258)

What a keen observation! I had not considered this, but I have to agree now that I have. I
was in the strange position of being accepted
by a few at both ends of the spectrum (cheerleader crowd and the welding shop guys), so I still know
many of these people over a decade later. Two of the cheerleaders I was friends with are now teachers (one high school math, the other elementary school) and several of the 'rich jocks' are lawyers, others are coaches. Interesting.

(As for being accepted, I was just lucky, I was a good artist and painted and drew pictures for several girls in elementary school, just as a friendly gesture. Later, 3 of these became the 'popular girls', and they were actually quite nice as people. As for the welding shop guys, well, I could fix _anything_. I'd also spent the first 5 years of elementary school fighting my way to school and back. I could hold my own in any fight, and had gained the respect of some of the 'big' guys. ;-) )

blind freedom (1)

maskatron (7560) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914265)

..."who can look objectively at the drones"

this is the key.

doesn't matter if you're a steak headed athlete or the smart geek that loves tech and can't talk to people. you can be both. i am both, and people never know where the fu*k to put me. just be yourself.

The Story. Part II (1)

Accipiter (8228) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914269)

I agree with all of what is being said. I don't feel like re-writing my First reply to the John Katz story, so I'll keep this one short. The internet, Doom/Quake, and the Movie industry are NOT to blame. It's all based on the person's household, and their environment, be it at school, or at home. School is a hostile place these days, and it's only getting worse.

-- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

A different experience (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914272)

Jarod -

The last High School I went to, I had a similar experience (well, I wasn't a #1 golfer, but I was the best - and only - triple jumper on the track team.) That school also had only about 200 people in it. I was definitely seen as unusual and different and geeky, but I wasn't persecuted for it - it was just who I was, and I was largely accepted and even liked for it. I was involved with student government, hung out with everyone, got invited to parties - just like everyone else. It was a remarkable change of pace from the other schools I'd gone to.

However, I went to 10 different schools over 12 years as a child - a military family, we moved all the time - and the last school was definitely an exception. I actually ended up diverted to counselling because of a short story I wrote about a fantasy of blowing up one of my junior high schools. Without reiterating the litany of horrors that I went to, suffice it to say that I was pushed to the point of a psychotic break more than once, and if I had been armed, some motherfuckers would be dead now.

One thing I learned is that the teachers themselves are victims of the same popularity anxiety. They *don't* want to reach out to the outcasts because they want to retain the respect of the alpha-kids, so the collaborate in the persecution of the untouchables. After all, most teachers are not the most intelligent and self-aware people, unless they are either self-sacrificing saints or independently wealthy - teaching is renumerated too poorly to attract the brightest and best. They are insecure and depend on the same status games in order to secure their authority in the class room.

Valueless knowledge (1)

Rotten (8785) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914274)

Maybe the problem of exclussion that some geeks suffer every day in highschool is just a reflection of the society we live in. Knowledge is valueless for most people. If we ask 1000 persons:
"Is the end of the world: name 100 personalities you would save to rebuild our world" I bet my balls that 90% of the list will be basketball players, and hollywood stars. PATETIC
In a world were a 500 pages book is $5 and a cheap entretainment world magazine is about $3 what can we expect.
In a world Where the weight of your success is not meassured in creation but in money.
The same society that scandalizes about bulimia and anorexia, and at the same time wants more and more skinny models.
I been always sure: The problem is not us...

So... when do we see this go mainstream (1)

Knara (9377) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914280)

I mean, Taco said that there's been requests to reprint and what not, but anyone care to make bets on how long (if ever) it will be before this viewpoint makes it into the mundane (read mainstream) media (i.e.,, etc)?

Time for a separate Hellmouth page? (1)

MAXOMENOS (9802) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914284)

It's occurred to me that the sheer bandwidth from the Hellmouth stories is pretty massive, even for Slashdot. Is it time for a separate Hellmouth Stories page, for nerds and outcasts to discuss the ramifications of this latest wave of anti-non-conformist paranoia?

They won't give up (1)

Dast (10275) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914288)

until they make you believe.

Only then do they kill you. The bullet always comes in the back of the head.

And it is sad. This will never end.

(only halfway serious)
You know, maybe this is just a conspiracy perpetrated by the illuminati. They can easily control conformists, but geeks and intellectuals are much harder. So they encourage elementary|middle|highschool teachers to allow this type of mental violence. If they destroy us, who will oppose them? Scary thought.

time for change (1)

Tim Randolph (10300) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914290)

Reading Katz's last two pieces has made me realize how lucky I was in HS and how bad our current system is. I went to a public alternative high school (no football or basketball) and was at most a bi-geek. I could certainly pass as mainstream. I even remember thinking that I was more likely to meet girls in a lit class than in calc. So I took the lit class and after 15 years of getting educated and meandering in the lit vein, I ended up coding for a living. Why did I feel compelled to take that detour? Why isn't our society cherishing the skills & the outlook on life that are responsible for the computer/knowledge revolution going on now?

I have two children now and all I want for them is to be able to grow up true to their natures. The first is starting kindergarden next year and she will be going to a co-op school that will cost a lot more in our time and money than the public alternatives. What my children will get back is a more personal education that values both cooperation and difference.

The Littleton news and the Katz pieces have convinced me that this is the right choice. I hope solutions like this are blazing the way for systematic change rather than just a private escape from the wider problem.

The irony of it all, is that I am only able to afford something better for my kids because I hung on to enough of my geekiness that getting back into software was a snap. I hope that there is at least a little comfort in that.

My escape was drugs (1)

ehintz (10572) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914292)

I too was the outcast.

My escape was 5 years of drug addiction, culminating in hardcore methamphetamine usage and living on the streets, because I'd rather use drugs than go home. The pot smokers accepted me. The "in crowd" didn't.

Not that I condone being a doper. It was a dumb thing to do, but it was my escape from that hell. Glad to be a geek nowadays. Screw the dumb bastards.

Conformity (1)

daviddennis (10926) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914293)

Let's back off from a moment. I was a geek, I was tortured in high school, and despite now being a high-paid professional with an office full of computers, the scars still show. But that's true of most of the respondents, I'm sure.

What I'm curious about is root causes.

What's so good about conforming? Why do people in school want the whole world to be mirrors of themselves? Would that not create a horribly boring world? Why torture people because they are different?

Anyone know? I think if we understood that, we would understand many of the world's problems.



For the love of god... (1)

PsychoSpunk (11534) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914298)

I want to thank Jon for continuing his coverage of this horror. And I want to thank everyone for writing about their experiences. I wrote in yesterday with a post about helping these kids at the boiling point to escape. I went to a program called the Texas Academy for Leadership in the Humanities @ Lamar U. in Beaumont. You can go to Lamar's homepage [] and look in the directories for information. There is also a news item that talks about the Academy on their site under the news dated Jan. 24, 1999.

I've received a couple of emails since posting, and welcome all because I think that the Academy changed my life in the most positive way possible. Send me [mailto] one if you want to know how to escape the Hellmouth.

Mike Ford

Hang on, Hang on (1)

mikeraz (12065) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914304)

Reading through the stories of teenages today brought back the memories of my school experiences 25 and 30 years ago, I'm 41 now.

The jock's hand around my throat, "What'd you say? I thought I heard you say 'Fuck you.'" He was looking for an excuse to pound on me. Junior high and high school had lots of episodes like that. My nickname was "Bullwinkle". You can figure it out.

The best thing about getting older is that you can travel and mix with different crowds. You can find more people like yourself and find your community. Hang on for that. Being a geek - and having geek brains and curiosity - gives you incredible flexibility in life. That flexibility enables you to choose what you do and where you live to do it. Something the bullies really don't have.

I was lucky in that going to college was like being a fish returned to water after a life in air. Yes, that good. Life has gotten better and better since then.

Nothing lasts forever. Hang on until your life takes you out of the hellmouth.

Should geeks go to High School?? (1)

jabber (13196) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914313)

We've argued the college angle ad nauseum already; but everyone has to admit, in college it is easier to be left alone to do your thing.

In college, unless you choose to pledge a frat (and willfully subject yourself to much more humiliation by the Greeks than by the jocks), you can easily stay out of the way of THAT element. Simply be involved in intellectual and 'social conscience' activities, and you're unlikely to even see the greek alphabet - except in math and physics classes.

High School, on the other hand, holds geeks as a captive audience. Even if you're lucky enough to have your choice of classes, you pass the 'shinny, happy people' in the hallways, and you're likely to be abused.

A redefined school system, specialized at the HS level - not in college, is what is necessary. Specialized public schools are needed. Ones for geeks - that offer the sciences and the fine arts; and ones for the 'beautiful people' with their sports programs and shop.

Let's take the Academia vs trade-school divide down to the highschool level; where the future leaders of society can learn in peace, and the future blue collar plumber/mechanic types can score touchdowns as their bimbette girlfriends cheer on the sidelines.

Katz is off base (1)

Magneto (15277) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914329)

Would you rather that we learn nothing from the Littleton tragedy and that there be *no* reaction to violence, threats, or the poor taste of wearing a trenchcoat to school the day after a massacre? While some of the stories Katz has talked about have been overboard (the parents taking away the 10 year old's computer), most have erred on the side of caution.

I'm not saying that the persecution of "geeks" shouldn't be an issue to be discussed - but to claim some of the actions that I've read about in the past two Katz articles are overreactions is ludicrous. This isn't a freaking deathmatch - 15 kids died.

Now high school and junior high school students are scared of this sort of thing and are afraid to go to school. Teachers are scared by it and are afraid of their students. If you get up in a religion class and say you've wish you had owned a gun, of course someone is going to take it as a sign. I have no pity for anyone punished for saying something like this because they have no common sense, and no respect for the fears of others.

No it is the Right Audience (1)

KeefR (15588) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914330)

I agree with you that this is the right Audience, because here at /. a lot of people know how you feel, if you are an outsider.
I never had this feeling at my school, perhaps I had luck. I live in Germany and it was not a problem being a 'geek' (I don't know a german word that has the same meaning). Perhaps I was lucky, because I heard of people having such problems in german schools, too, but I don't think the problem here is as big as in the US, not yet.
Perhaps this is a opportunity to change the situation in the US and other countries. Here at /. there are a lot of bright and successfull people who felt as outsiders at school. Get together and do something. There are lobbys for nearly everything in America, why not a lobby for geeks (or simply people who are different, don't wear 'in'-clothes...)
I always had the impression, that the US is very puritanical, but watching the Clinton trial I thought this has changed a little bit. Perhaps this is the time to change the view of 'outsiders' in highschools.

Sorry for my english 8-)

A different experience (1)

jarod (15787) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914332)

I graduated from HS in 1990. I was prom king, I was the #1 golfer in school, played basketball, I was a complete computer geek (and still am), I wore combat boots, i had bleached blond hair spiked a foot into the air, wore a lot of black, and was in the band. These things didn't fit in a nice neat package that could be used to label me. And in my school of about 200 (very small school), i was the only freak. period. But I earned their respect by doing my own thing. I did what I enjoyed doing.

I had friends that were jocks, geeks, burn-outs, metalheads, whatever label anyone wanted to put on them. I didn't label any of them. They liked me for what i was and I dug them for what they were. As far as disliking someone or tormenting them for what they do or what they look like, my attitude was always "whats the point, it takes less energy to ignore or just smile, than to beat the hell out of someone.

Parents and educators and administrators need to open their eyes and face the cold hard facts. Some of your kids are assholes. They haven't been taught how to respect anyone or anything. Schools are not safe, healthy learning environments. They are a breeding ground for a majority of the injustices that exist in this world. So listen to your kids. Teach them to hold their heads high, encorage them to respect people, and follow their own path.


Academically advanced students in short supply? (2)

Visoblast (15851) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914334)

Is this problem a characteristic of having too few academically advanced students in a school?

I ask because I had a group of friends who were similarly inteligent and didn't have much trouble with alienation and rejection from the normals in high school. My friends weren't as interested in computers, but we still understood each other and had various intellectual coversations. Because of our academic abilities, we were grouped together for most of our classes. But even when I did meet the normals, there usually wasn't much trouble unless they were freshmen.

Middle School was much worse for me. The school wouldn't put me in the academically advanced gifted classes for some reason, and I was board most of the time. A lot other students didn't seem to appreciate me, save for the students in the gifted classes.

So, maybe the problem could be reduced by grouping students with other students of similar academic ability. Of course, this won't solve the problem. It'll probably allow the problem to continue.

I'd like to know what makes the masses of the school lash out against the most intelligent of the students. Maybe its the "attack what is not understood" syndrome.

What do the /.'ers here think?

what?? not acceptable (1)

Null_Packet (15946) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914335)

That's not and acceptable answer. 'Oh- it sucks for everyone' is a lame ass excuse for the abuse that goes on! there's a big difference between the captain of the football team being nervous about zits and prom, and the kids who have to sneak home from school! You're effectively saying'let's just ignore it' and that is not a useful role in our society.

Thanks... (1)

Alternity (16492) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914337)

Well... you (along with some moments of thinking about all this and what I had said) just made me realise that my first opinion (that was later altered by various things) was what I really felt. Those two kids are just the embodiement of what is felt by so many young people, the only difference is that they are the representation of what happens when things get too far, out of control. Congratulation to everybody who started writing here, the first step for helping the outcasts, the misfits is made...

Great to see this wave of understanding but... (2)

Alternity (16492) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914339)

It's good to finally geeks and (former in some case) high school outcasts being able to express the way we've always felt. It's even better to express it mainstream so that people might realize that the people they've been laughing at and hating for no good reasons are also human being and have much to share if allowed to. But I'm beggining think it might be questionable to use this tragedy and those two kids as a launching point for all this. Let's not forget how it all started, lets not forget that those two killed 15 others, lets not use them as martyr to boost our cause. By doing this we're no better than the ones we're accusing of rejecting us. I already see the flames coming but as I posted this message to share my point of view I'm ready and eager to read what you think of my point of view and maybe you can even help me set my ming and figure out what is the better way to feel/act about this.

What we can do (3)

lee (17524) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914341)

We can speak out and start teaching children at an early age that ridiculing people who are different is wrong.

I was a new kid in the middle of the first grade. the first teacher I had at that school thought learning to get along and fit in was part of growing up. Instead of stepping in when the kids started to tease the new kid, she let them. She let them get away with it even when I told her they were hitting me. She said if I would just ignore them they would stop. She told me not to be a tattletale and a crybaby. Her inaction taught them that their actions were ok.

I was tortured over the next 3 years until I moved out of that school. They got away with it because they were many and I was alone. That teacher had an opportunity to prevent at least some of that, but felt the lesson I needed, to learn how to fit in, was more important.

This week I have talked to people who echoed her sentiments. I think such attitudes are very much part of the problem. It is not always possible to make your tormenters stop without help. I was told to ignore them and they will go away. Ignoring them did not make them go away. Instead of growing bored with a captive who did not scream, they hit me harder and tried more severe tortures until I screamed. Instead of me learning to fit in, they learned how to torment.

We can reach out to those young people we know on the net, welcome the teen geeks to our groups--from linux users groups to our weekly D&D game. We can talk to them online and let them know that life gets better, but we need to teach the others what they are doing is wrong.

kids should know that high school sucks (2)

Sir Spank-o-tron (18193) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914349)

Don't forget the administration.. I had the principal of my high school come accuse me of vandalism. When I told my friend about it, I was lambasted for violating the confidence of his lies.

I should mention that the vandalism was against some members of the student government whom I had no great history with. But the last 2 years I was in high school, I was punished for some other fools vandalism.. I'm glad I never had a gun, and I'm glad someone else was breaking shit for me.

I got the pleasure of seeing girlie hooch cry b/c 'I' shaving creamed her car and she had to repaint it. BUT I did'na do it.

Moral of this Story: Fuck it. Go read a book, and screw all those assholes. You don't need them, but killing anyone (including yourself) is just a chickenshit escape. Doesn't make things better. You just go to jail, or die.

Geeks Anonymous? (1)

warpeightbot (19472) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914361)

"Matthew C," the final author in the column, wondered if there was some sort of organization out there to support those who will, if they live, grow up to be the next generation of Slashdotters.

I don't know that there is. There should be. If there isn't, WE should make one. An all-volunteer (Open Source? :) organization of been-there geeks, counselors, and others who can help these kids get thru the Hellmouth when no one else will.

And I'm going to go way the hell out on a limb and volunteer to coordinate the effort.

I need someone who can volunteer a co-located server and bandwidth, a webslinger, and some folks who know something about counseling. I'll handle the sysadmin end of it. (If someone wants to point me at an IRC server HOWTO, I'd appreciate it.)

If someone thinks they can do better, go for it; I just want to see this done. If somebody doesn't, we'll end up with all the smart ones selected out, and .... the rest is left as an exercise for the reader.

Talk to me, people.

Glenn Stone [mailto]
"This was the moment I was born for!"
-- Michael Garibaldi

Nerd Revenge/Things get better? (4)

magic (19621) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914362)

FastFood for thought:

On the previous Hellmouth article, someone posted about Nerd Revenge, suggesting that getting a better job, a better spouse, and a better car means that you "won" and the jock working at McDonalds "lost". I like to tell myself this, but I'm not so sure it is true.

What does it mean that you won on these criterion? You sacrificed everything you cared about when you were oppressed in high school-- freedom, deep intellectual concerns, a love of good books and good stories, general geeki-ness, and tried to beat the popular croud at their own game. So now that you are rich, well dressed, have lots of friends, and are tied 24/7 to your cell phone doing internet consulting... have you won? You bought into their ideals and sacrificed what you cared about. Sleeping with that popular person's boyfriend (or girlfriend), driving a porsche, and having them get your fries isn't what winning at life is all about.

To the people still stuck in school: Middle school was hell. High school was hell. If you are lucky, you manage to slide by on the sidelines, keep your D&D friends, keep your computer, and keep learning. If you aren't, someone "cracks down" on you and takes away the things that are expanding your universe. Life is infinitely better in college; you'll find more people like yourself, be able to control what you buy, what you watch, what you do. You will [mostly] be rewarded for being intelligent and dedicated.


*Yawn* recap.. (1)

Ellis-D (19919) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914381)

Ok.. I think yesterdays post should of been enought to make someone tired.. Personally i'm tired of hearing all this. To follow up, he are the points that are being made.
1.)Jocks how super inflated egos that were produced by their coaches.
2.)The rich people think they are always right, becuase money make the world go round....
3.)Media has been making this worse than it is by spreading lies.
4.)American are showing off their right to freedom of thought, and showing the rest of that most americans are a bunch of dumbasses.
5.)Guns, games, movies, internet and parents could have some effect on the whole deal, but not proven.
6.)Most likely these kid were just born fucked up
7.)Worse violence is found in the lower class areas.
8.)Geeks have feelings too.
9.)We all got spammed with religous email about the whole deal
10.)They were bad shoots.
11.)This even has made the un-thinkable happen, /.'ing /. ....
Anything thing else I missed?

I ate my tag line.

wrong audience? Does the audience matter? (1)

JohnZed (20191) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914382)

But the act of being able to share your story with someone outside of your own immediate friends (many of whom may have been in that same high school situation) can be the most useful, cathartic experience that a person can have. Honest expression of oneself is the foundation for all modern psychotherapy. I absolutely applaud /. for these articles.

It's a Two-Sided Sword (1)

sporkboy (22212) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914395)

I can't disagree with you there. I was alienated and abused by my peers through the 8th grade. Then one day, by some freak occurance, I hit 3 doubles in a ballgame in gym class and won the game. Soon after, a couple of people "reached out" to me and told me that if I were a little more sociable in general life and occasionally joked back life could and would become a lot easier. I never became popular, but life did lighten up. My high school circle consisted mostly of "converted" outcasts. We often competed in sporting competitions, sometimes making fools of ourselves, but the "jocks" saw that we were making an effort to be "human" in their world and they did some of the same. Maybe I'm just lucky.

blind freedom (1)

t0ast (22382) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914396)

I think i am correct in thinking that those who are truly "intelligent" are the ones who can look objectively at the "drones" that follow each other and conform to the "norm" blindly and choose not to be that way.

If conformity is rewarded and being different is considered wrong... how free are we as a people? And therefore are countries like China any less free? We dont kill our people for not conforming, or do we?

Replies requested,

Look at who has the influence (1)

PhunkyP (23245) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914399)

No social institution, peer group or extra-curricular activity can have as much influence as a child's parents do during his/her first 12 years. I can't overstate how important these years are in determining how a person approaches life.

My personal story mimics many that are posted here. My family moved when I was going into the 5th grade and it totally turned my world upside down. Fortunately I have increadible parents and I was able to make it through all the bullsh*t of my last 8 years of public school.

I went off to a well respected private college and I have now started a very promising career in the Tech Industry. I owe a majority of my success to the loving and supportive family life I had while I was growing up.

I've seen it happen. If kids don't get the support and love that they need at home, then their peer group will become extremely influential in their teen years. There are also cases where some chemical/biological issue is going on with them, but these are few and far between.

The most encouraging aspect of all of this is the word is getting out to the 'geeks', 'loners' and 'outcasts' in HS that they are not alone. There are many who have, and other who currently do, share their same experience. You can make it through. Yes, the HS social structure is much like prison and it make sense only on a superficial level. But the storm can be weathered and there is a rainbow at the end. The 'real world' doesn't operate by the same rules rules as HS.

Maybe it is America.... (1)

satori (25274) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914404)

Actually, kids in Canada lack one critical thing


Very few private individuals own or even have
the desire or need to own a firearm. The large majority of people don't even have access to a firearm. We (canadians), also don't have a gun culture where the initial response to any threat is to reach for your 9. That's why the number of murders even in big cities like Toronto are ridiculously low compared to any large american city.

College that much better?? (1)

Merk (25521) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914407)

I had a pretty unpleasant high-school experience, luckily I had enough close friends to help me get by. They were all extremely intelligent, but a few had other characteristics that made them less likely to be picked on -- one played Volleyball for the school team, another was a very good looking and socially adept female.

But I have to say that for me University (College for you US types) was not so much better. I ended up in the "nerdiest" of the Engineering groups (Engineering Physics) and still had to deal with the same cliques and stuff as high school.

Engineering, at my school and others I heard about, doesn't tend to tolerate people who are different. There was a standard dress code, and if you looked too strange.... that was a no-no. If you were too fat, didn't like the right music, or liked classes too much -- you were a freak. I can't imagine how unpleasant it must have been to be a gay engineer. And, for people like me who didn't drink... that was a guaranteed way to be an outcast.

Granted, all of this was better than high school, but it was still pretty bad.

I once again managed to find some good friends and escape a lot of the stupidity, but that didn't mean I didn't feel like an outcast a lot of the time.

Am I in the minority, or did other people find college / university unpleasant as well?

Well, *something* has changed since we were kids. (1)

dmorin (25609) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914412)

Ok, I did my time in the hell of highschool, too. Before that it began - I remember being in 2nd grade (that's about 7 years old, folks!) and being put in another room by myself to read, because I was too far ahead of the other kids. A life of isolation and alienation about to begin. 5th grade brought those damned "gifted and talented programs" which took me to another school one day a week, guaranteeing I wouldn't make any friends. Not at the gifted school, because I was only there one day a week, and not at my normal school, because everytime I came back after my "vacation" I got funny looks.

Junior high and highschool were met with beatings, and stolen lunches, forced to do others homework, all of it. It was miserable, like everyone has said. In junior high we got in trouble for putting a copy of the Anarchists' Cookbook into the computers (mind you, that would have been about 1983 or so, no internet involved). in high school I got suspended for flashing my knife in the presence of a teacher.

But I never killed anybody. None of us did. Something has changed. What? Is school really that much more of a hell than we had it? I haven't heard about any torture yet. The athletes picked on the geeks, oh no. That's not new. You can't tell me that's to blame for killing sprees.

No, I don't think it's videogames, or the net or the media. Those have all been around for my lifetime too, but I'm not picking up a gun. I think that the very fact that we glorify what's happened is what causes it to happen again.

Think about it. Perhaps the first time truly was a bizarre, one in a million thing with no explanation. Maybe even the second. But how many times does it have to happen before some geeks somewhere, in their depression, start to say something like this:

"Nobody loves me. Look at those kids in Arkansas, look how everybody's crying for them. People all around the country feel for them. How come nobody feels like that for me? Nobody cares that I exist now. I'm never gonna be on tv. If I killed myself tomorrow nobody would care. But if I did what they did, then everybody would see. Then they'd realize how much they miss me, and how much they loved me. That'd show them."

It's true that there are children out there in hell (not just geeks, either). They want someone to recognize their pain, and feel for them. To understand that it's real pain. And tv keeps portraying to them that the world will tell you how much they understand your pain, but they'll only do it after you're dead. It isn't a difficult leap to make from this to "Well fine, I'll show them. I'll cause some pain, and then they'll see what mine was like. Only then it'll be too late. But they had their chance."

It's a catch 22 for us. We want to express our pain (and rage and sympathy and everything else) at what happens at these schools. But in so doing in, and getting so caught up in our media-fueled desire to say "Oh, the horror! Why oh why didn't we see it coming!" we tend to forget that it potentially *was* coming, every day. Almost all of the schools that start counselling programs this week won't still have them in place next year, I'll bet. We'll all overcompensate for awhile, to ease our guilt at having "missed it" with these two kids, who are actually only the latest in what is potentially an endless stream.

I'm not sure I have a solution. I've been out of school for too long, and I don't have kids of my own. Has it really gotten that much harder? I would say that I fear the entrance of drugs into schools, but these killing sprees don't seem to have anything to do with that. Are the athletes meaner now than they were then? I don't know why that would be. If anything, it seems like being a "computer person" is more acceptable these days. Where's all this pain coming from?

Again look deeper, at systemic issues (1)

cjeris (29514) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914418)

(See my reply `Look past what you're encouraged to see' to ` Why Kids Kill [] ')

Let's not make this discussion into a catalogue of traumatic high school experiences. For one thing, remember that anyone who made it to Slashdot has amassed some advantages, thus there is a common class thread running through many (not all) of our reminiscences. For another, much of the trauma of high school may be inescapably bound into adolescence. If we let the lesson of this incident be that "life sucks for people (geeks) like us, so we need to make it better", we have lost in the moment we grasp victory! If you once agree to the memetic framework in order to improve your standing in it, you are trapped.

Go much deeper instead. Realize that, for reasons of their own, those with power in our society encourage the endless reflexive division into spheres of special interest and shared assumptions. Find tiny ways to make particles of sense (appearing as nonsense to the poster-flat group mind) in the tepid glossolalic soup that keeps us from seeing reality. Look for the coercion in every economic relation, and ask yourself whether it should be there and whether you want to touch it.

Only once we begin to free our own minds from their baggage of groupthink and trauma (including high school experience) can we start reaching out to infect others with sanity.

Maybe it is America.... (1)

ravenskana (30506) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914424)

The coverage that Jon Katz is giving here needs to be understood by the traditional media. There have been so many angles played on this, scapegoats all around, but none of it is facing the truth.

The games, the movies, the subculture, is all an escape from the realities that hundreds of people are stating here. Is America blind to this?

I wonder what the take on this is in other countries. As I have seen a few people mention, you don't see this sort of thing in Canada, for example, and they have access to everything the kids here do.

general question (1)

N3MCB (30591) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914425)

There are places out there to help - one of my coworkers is mentoring a teen and trying to help out - but be carefull I would strongly recommend working in pairs and NEVER being alone with a child in this type of setting because the same hysteria that blames doom will lable a person trying to help a "pervert" (and just that accusation can be devistating). I am a volunteer for the police and I have seen people trying to help get burned in this manner.

There needs to be more non-athletic ways to get to these kids so they have a place to belong - I found a place to belong in amateur radio and technical theater when I was in High-School. This never seems to cross people's minds when they cut the budget for music, theater, and other activities (but leave football alone).

I hope something can be done - I don't want to be responding to a school shooting...

re: Take this to the Press ASAP. (1)

elspud (30654) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914426)

It's people with MBAs (CEOs, for example), and Pol Sci degrees (gov't ppl) and Law School degrees that end up with control over this world -- and those areas are generally ones were you will find a large lack of nerds/geeks, and a larger percentage of the in-crowd.

All too true, unfortunately. I was a geek in high school, a geek in college and now I'm finishing up my second year at law school, and sometimes it's so painfully reminiscent of high school that I want to puke. All the same cliques and the old mentality that made h.s. such a pain the the ass.

But now, as then, I just do my own thing, hang with people that don't suck, and to heck with all that other crap.

The mainstream has gotten it all backwards (4)

Chris Andersen (31183) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914436)

Computer games, Goth, black trenchcoats, loud music...

None of these things cause tragedies like the Littleton shootings.

All of these things are merely attempts by isolated kids to create a means of expressing their pain in a way that DOESN'T involve getting a shotgun and blowing off the face of their tormentors. They are not not unhealthy influences that corrupt otherwise innocent minds. They are mechanisms we create in order to avoid giving into our unhealthy desires to haul off and wail away on our enemies.

Suppressing these activities won't make the problem go away. If anything, this will simply limit the recourses these kids have and increase the possibility that they will resort to more violent modes of expression.

Hated Opinion (1)

flesh99 (32039) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914441)

You know what, I am really sick of all this drivel about Littleton, CO. and sick of kids complaining that their schools or parents are being nosey. Lets get one thing straight, had these kids parents been nosey this wouldn't have happened. Another thing, you children have no "rights", your parents are responsible for your actions, whether you like it or not, so you have to deal with them knowing what you are doing, whether you like it or not. Get off of your high horse and come down to earth Mr. Katz, yes some of these things are a bit extreme, but if it saves lives then it's all for the best.

You want a solution to this problen, lets start with school uniforms and strict curfews. If you can't judge a person by his clothes then it's harder to judge other ways. Lets take it a bit farther, no sports, sports are as much to blame for this incident as any thing else, on second thought lets get rid of schools altogether as they obviously promote this behaviour . Come on folks, parents need a tighter rein on kids these days, quit blaming guns, games, internet, and movies. The fault can be laid directly at the feet of the parents and the school. Hold on before you scream and bitch, the school system is responsible for the children and their actions when they are in school, check your laws on it. The minute school is over the parents become resposible again. So on a serious note kiddies, your parents have a right to anything you "own" or that you put in writing, you have no right to privacy. And again to you Mr. Katz, you are as guilty of sensationalism as the mainstream media.

Academically advanced students in short supply? (1)

deacent (32502) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914443)

I think you're on the right track. It's much bigger than that though. The majority are sheep as far as I can tell and it seems to be a self-feeding cycle. The sheep are uncomfortable with the non-sheep, so the ones that are afraid enough will try to make you conform. Students will provoke and adults, who are supposed to be above doing that, will look the other way. It actually explains Windows quite well.

Some of the unpleasantness of high school is common to all kids. It really is just part of life. Sometimes it sucks. But the more severe problems of physical abuse really should be dealt with. I wonder what would happen if you took them to the police. I know it sounds a bit severe but getting beat up in the locker room or thrown through a window is _assult_ and illegal. If the teachers and parents aren't doing anything about it, I believe the law is supposed to cover this.


Hell yeah man, you know it (1)

Madhatter (33678) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914456)

Every guy I know that I graduated with hasn't amounted to shit. I was picked on alot until the 11th grad or so. I wanted to hurt most of those people until I finally got out and realized that my brains were worth something. Most of those people will never accomplish what I have accomplished in the past two years since graduating.

There are others that feel like this Speak up! (2)

Madhatter (33678) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914459)

There are parental voices speaking the same words. MSNBC has some letters posted on their site [] The politicians and lawmakers are headed in the wrong direction. Speak up! go to and send your opinion to your senator on how this should be handled.

Great to see this wave of understanding but... (2)

the ignorant masses (34607) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914467)

I understand where you are coming from, and it's completely justified. This is a highly....... sensitive topic. The intentions of all these posts are to finally bring to full light the true nature of school life for many people. The problem is we are linking it to a terrible event. With what occured in Colorado, everyone's focus is on the deaths of the 15? students/teachers. With death comes the feelings of mourning, but aslo anger, hate, and rage directed at the ones responsible, and, unfortunately, the ones associated with them too.

Now you said, "lets not use them as martyr to boost our cause. By doing this we're no better than the ones we're accusing of rejecting us."

Why exactly do you feel that way? The way I see it, as much as they failed the system, the system failed them just as much. Out of all the stories we have heard, the posts that have been written, we all have come to the conclusion that these kids were not just geeks, outcasts, or whatever you want to call them. We all see that there was something else deeply wrong within them, and that they had some serious issues. Now, the question is, why didn't any of the parents, teachers, or counselers see any of the serious warning signs?

There could be many answers to this, and your guess is as good as mine. Here is my view. They were all labeled as goths, loners, and all the pretty words that means they were different from the mainstream. One set idea that has been stated many times in these posts, is that those groups of people are 90% of the time misunderstood. People don't know anything about them (and don't want to), so anything and everything they do is just thrown into the class that people have labeled them as.

Now I know im explaining this horriby, and I'm trying my best to get my point across straight. What I'm trying to say, is these people need to put their prejudices aside, and get to know these "different" kids, so that everyone can tell the difference between a gothic trend, and the signs of a seriously disturbed mind.

These Colorado kids are a perfect example that the people in charge (and nearly everybody for that matter), just cannot tell this difference. The sooner people become knowledgable, the fewer of these cases we will see of schools overreacting to the actions of the "out" crowd. And, like the dominoe effect, when they start to learn about this "out" crowd, hopefully they will see exactly how bad it has gotten for them.


The Story. Part II (1)

Slinky (34806) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914468)

After reading the posts for the last two days by Katz and others I was shocked by some of the stories that were posted. Growing up in the Caribbean [Trinidad] things were bad but never this bad, I knew that Geeks were treated badly in American High Schools but the kind of terror that some of the posters experienced would be more that anyone can hope to bear. I guess I consider myself extremely lucky for not being persecuted like this. To all the other Geeks out there just hang in there things will get better.

Redundancy (3)

kamileon (35033) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914470)

Jon, while I applaud your attention to these stories, you are beginning to get a little redundant. Instead of showing us more and more of the insanity which parents are willing to perpetrate (which doesn't really show me anything new or shocking), how about a little more attention to potential solutions, instead of this hand-wringing. We know how the horror goes. Many of us lived through it. While my deepest sympathies go out to these people, I feel that I am betraying them, if the only thing I can do is sit around and say how horrible it is. That makes us as bad as the regular media.

What can we, as a community, do about it?

Solutions - There are none (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914481)

There are no SOLUTIONS to this problem. If there's a single thing that everyone needs to figure out, this is it.


That's what people are trying to do, and that's what's caused half of the problems. When you try to ban things, you're trying to engineer society. It ALWAYS fails.

When you make school mandatory, you're engineering society. The same goes for drinking ages, gun control, DOOM control, censorship, curfews, school uniforms, speed limits, encryption controls, welfare, and a hundred other things.

And every time one of these 'solutions' is implemented, life is a little less worth living. This is doubly true for good, responsible people.

And when you push people, and push them and push them a push them some more, someday they'll be pushed too far. That won't be a happy day. The vast MAJORITY are capable of violence. You just need to create the right circumstance.

How about leaving people alone instead? Or better yet, how about personally solving the problem for yourself, or for your kid, or for a kid you know, or for a kid you haven't met yet?

When you try to help a single person, you can succeed. When you try to 'help' EVERYONE at once, you only make things worse.

High school hell was all worth it when......... (1)

bluesclues (40988) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914493)

Going to highschool was hell for me, I was a geek, but you know it all paid off when I heard Johnny football hero was a drunk who was living out of a Pick-up truck, Captin of the wrestlting team dilvered my pizza the other night, ane one of the bitch cheerleaders was in the paper for shoplifting from K-mart. Ahh life sure is good now

Maybe it is America.... (1)

DdR (42123) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914496)

I'm from Holland. and although high school by no means was paradise to me, what helps is that we have a progressive school system. That is, there are different levels of high school; there are low-level technical and agricultural ones, medium-level for various non-academic jobs and high-level ones for access to university. Kids get into these schools based on school results at the age of 12, but can switch or stack schools if they want and are able to.

The result? As you progress, you more and more enter a world of similar geeks. Although there are still jocks, they're about as smart as you are, so there's no reason for hostility. For me, it meant that while my glasses were broken about once a month in kindergarden, the rate went considerably down over the years (to once a year in high school, mostly due to sporting accidents :)

Although this might strike people used to a one-school system as strange, it actually has a lot of advantages, of which the educational ones are the most obvious. Is Holland alone in this approach or do other countries have similar systems?

It's a Two-Sided Sword (1)

AhNewBis (42974) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914505)

From my experiences in High School and a little time in College, it seems that there are three kinds of jocks:

1) Druggie jocks. The ones who don't mind getting stoned every now and again. These jocks are relatively harmless and are laid back and are easy to talk to, relatively speaking.

2) Drunkard jocks. These are the violent ones who are the assholes of them all. They can be OK at times, but usually they're the ones that cause trouble, thinking that they own the world.

3) "Normal" or "Geeky" jocks. The rarity, I've seen jocks involved in D&D or CompSci, which can be odd, especially when you talk to them and find out they're missing practice to write a program. How DIFFERENT.

I don't react violently, I had my bad days in middle and high school. Sometimes I'd come home and wring my pillow like it was someone's neck. I can feel the rage consuming me, and it's like the rage controls ME, instead of ME controlling the rage. So I gave up physical prospects of revenge, and stick to mental/technological revenge. Nothing like making your agressor realize that he's useless, and won't get anywhere in life. And deleting that term paper helps too ;)

"Windows has detected the following resident program is not needed: COMMAND.COM. Do you wish to unload this before loading windows? (Y/N)"
- Actual error message, God bless `em!

The geek shall inherit the earth (1)

JJC (96049) | more than 15 years ago | (#1914552)

I've been thinking for a while now that there must be a better way of running a civilized society so that so many people aren't so miserable all the time. I'm starting to think that the solution is probably gunna come from /.ers.
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