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The mass shooting at a Texas elementary school marks the 30th school shooting this year ("19 children, 2 adults killed in Texas school," front page, May 25). Every teacher, parent and student across America is terrified it could happen to them. My worst fear happened when a student brought a loaded gun to school and shot two students, killing one, at South Education Center in Richfield this past winter.

The problem is far greater than access to guns, school safety or education funding.

At the root of school violence are often young people with significant unmet mental health needs.

There were over a dozen deaths of students or recent former students due to suicide, overdose or community violence over the last 12 months in my district. Three students brought loaded guns to school this year. Forty staff members experienced concussions last school year; we average 350 staff injuries annually due to students' disabilities or dysregulation.

Just this week, two of my students were turned away by hospitals and mental health treatment facilities when their behaviors became too dangerous. Do you know where they will go tomorrow? My schools. Schools are the only entity legally required to serve students when they are violent, yet we do not have the resources or support to serve their noneducational needs adequately.

We are in a state of emergency. I have warned policymakers of our significant safety issues and the lack of mental health supports for years and urged them to address the failing systems and inadequate funding that have led us to this point.

Our state's top leaders will now decide if the schools serving our state's highest needs students will receive ongoing mental health funding. The decisions you make now are a matter of life or death for them.

Sandy Lewandowski, Plymouth

The writer is superintendent, Intermediate District 287.


Must the "tree of liberty" be constantly watered with the blood of innocents?

Neil Korpi, Minnetonka


A few years ago, we visited our daughter and her husband in Mumbai, India, where they taught music. Our visit was not long after terrorist attacks made world news. I worried about their safety, until I visited the school. My Vietnam training and life in a war zone clicked in as we approached the compound. I felt no PTSD, only heightened awareness.

It was a compound. A high wall and fencing surrounded the school. Guards with automatic rifles were stationed casually around the block. They were far enough apart so that they could not be taken out by one assailant with conventional military armament. The guards had attracted a pack of the ubiquitous dogs that roam the streets of the city. Perhaps the dogs would protect them or give warning.

The one entrance to the compound had a gate and turnstile. After a soldier let you through the gate, you stopped at a window with bullet-resistant glass. There, you answered questions and were given your pass and picture ID. Then, you were allowed to walk, one by one, through the turnstile.

The passage through the wall was dark, but once through the turnstile, you entered a lovely, overly bright courtyard. It was 40 to 50 feet from the wall to the school entrance. Looking left, right and over my shoulder I recognized this area as a killing zone. If terrorists were to get past the wall, the guards would have clear targets.

Inside the school, children and teachers laughed and played and sang and learned.

Some say we should arm teachers. No one with even the most basic introduction to military tactics would think this was a good idea. To be at all effective, defenders must be focused and alert, not helping kids with their spelling.

Even having an armed cop in the school is dangerous. Kids and bullets don't belong in the same space.

Have we come to this? Must we build walls around our schools and station soldiers to defend those walls?

Have we come to this? Shame.

John Widen, Minneapolis


Several years ago I wrote a commentary in the Star Tribune titled, "I'm a cop and I've met the next mass shooter." It was about a young man, a juvenile, who had admitted to setting a fire at a north Minneapolis school playground. When asked why he did it, he responded, "Because I was bullied there."

Now we are learning that the shooter in Texas was bullied and had a tumultuous home life growing up.

Cause and effect.

Does this mean all children bullied or coming from unstable homes will commit these types of atrocities? Of course not. But there are warning signs. There are always warning signs of deep trouble.

As I approach retirement, I think of that kid often. Why often? I think of him every time there is a mass shooting ... every time.

Do you know what happened to that kid?


The Hennepin County Attorney's Office, head of the juvenile unit, declined to prosecute. Why? Because I wrote the commentary. Everything was anonymous. No names were mentioned. But they backed away. They projected their own ideas onto an article I wrote.

Warning signs. There are always warning signs. Thoughts and prayers have become synonymous with a shoulder shrug. It means nothing.

Sgt. Erika Christensen, Lake Elmo

The writer is a member of the Minneapolis Police Department.


Reform is 'unfinished'? I'll say.

On May 25, 2022, the two-year anniversary of George Floyd's callous murder, the Star Tribune headline read, "Police transformation still unfinished." Really? "Unfinished"? That's like me saying that my bestselling novel is "unfinished." I've thought about it, written a couple pages and part of an outline — so yeah, my novel's "unfinished."

Mayor Jacob Frey is right that real reform requires a culture shift, and that culture shift is difficult. Like my novel. But there's progress being made. Frey's choice for interim chief, Amelia Huffman, a product of said culture, has a spreadsheet! And Minneapolis cops, including those described by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights as racist, are getting $7,000 bonuses. If that won't change the culture, I don't know what will.

John K. Trepp, Minneapolis


Charles M. Blow raises important questions ("The Great Erasure," Opinion Exchange, May 25). Many of the images and art that spontaneously appeared after George Floyd's killing have been lost. This is a real loss that some local artists and museum staff are trying to limit through their efforts to collect and eventually display the many community expressions of grief and anger, the street art that remembers Floyd and commemorates his death. Blow notes the reality that what we are seeking is real changes, effective policies, within the Minneapolis Police Department as well as elsewhere — not just the preservation of images and artwork, as important as they might be.

And I agree with Blow that Black Lives Matter, both as an organizational presence and a vehicle for change, seems at times to be fading. I wonder sometimes if Black Lives Matter, like the Occupy movement, has been very effective at channeling anger and protest yet too often ineffective as a vehicle for real change within institutions and city government. Performance politics seems to have infected both the Occupy movement in the past and more recently the demonstrations and news conferences by Black Lives Matter — including some of the statements and actions taken by the Minneapolis City Council.

All of us, whatever our racial and ethnic backgrounds, deserve more effective initiatives for real change. Floyd's life will be most effectively commemorated through these real policy changes, not just the preservation of the street art, as important as it is, that remains as historical images and emotional reminders of this tragedy.

David Gagne, Minneapolis