School official recommends tearing down Columbine High School to discourage 'morbid fascination'

Jason Glass, the superintendent of Jefferson County schools in Colorado, published a letter Thursday suggesting it was time to consider tearing down Columbine high school and building a replacement school on the same grounds. Glass writes that the existing school, where 13 people were killed and twenty-one were injured in 1999, has become a focal point for people obsessed with the crime, some of them dangerously so:

The tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999 serves as a point of origin for this contagion of school shootings. School shooters refer to and study the Columbine shooting as a macabre source of inspiration and motivation. Called “Columbiners,” there are people across the globe obsessed with the Columbine shooting. Sol Pais, the Florida teen who made her way to Colorado to take her own life, instigating concerns for a potential threat and causing schools across the entire Denver metro-area to close, was but one example.

Columbine High School has a gravitational-pull for these sorts of individuals. Annually, local law enforcement and Jeffco’s Department of School Safety make contacts with hundreds of individuals seeking to enter the school and reconnect with the 1999 murders. Most of them are there to satisfy curiosity or a macabre, but harmless, interest in the school. For a small group of others, there is a potential intent to do harm…

Perhaps influenced by the 20th anniversary of the shooting, over the past 11 months the number of people trying to enter the school illegally or otherwise trespassing on school property has been increasing – now to record levels…

In 1999, no guidance existed on what to do with a building such as Columbine High School. Today school safety experts recommend tearing down buildings where school shootings take place. Since the morbid fascination with Columbine has been increasing over the years, rather than dissipating, we believe it is time for our community to consider this option for the existing Columbine building.

Glass estimates the cost of a new school would be $60-$70 million. It would be built on the same property but west of the current building. The old building would be demolished and turned into fields with controlled entry points.

After the shooting, the school library where many of the victims died was replaced with an atrium. The school then built a new library, known as Hope Library. Superintendent Glass suggests that Hope Library could be retained as part of a new high school building.

Sol Pais, who Glass mentioned, was an 18-year-old woman who traveled to Colorado from Florida and immediately bought a shotgun at a shop near Columbine high school. Because of her known fascination with the Columbine shooting, schools across the state were closed. Pais’ body was found in a National Forest on April 17, 2019. She had shot herself.

Pais had made verbal comments to family and friends about Columbine and had posted her thoughts about the massacre in online forums and social media, he said.

Still, no specific school or person was threatened.

Schools across the state were closed as a precaution because the threats didn’t identify a specific school, Phillips said.

My take is that the superintendent’s plan would probably discourage some people who are fascinated with the macabre aspects of the site. At a minimum, it would keep the “Columbiners” from trying to enter the new building. However, the truly obsessed will pull up Google Maps (or the equivalent) and start marking the spots in the empty field where the shootings in the library took place. You can discourage morbid fascination but you probably can’t stop it. And that’s why, if I lived in that area, I’d rather have my kids go to a newer school with upgraded security features.