On May 21, 1998, in Springfield, Oregon, 15-year-old Kip Kinkel murdered two and injured 23 other Thurston High School students after killing his parents.
There have been 189 school shootings in the United States since then. Four have taken place in Oregon, two in Roseburg. Eleven Oregonians have lost their lives in the scourge of post-Columbine gun violence in schools.
"We believe all of us have a responsibility to create an environment in our schools where students feel safe," Superintendent Yvonne Curtis states on the Forest Grove School District website. Either Ms. Curtis is merely stating what her community wants to hear, or she truly believes this statement and is simply failing in her administrative duties.
My family moved to Forest Grove when I was six years old in 2000. In the 16 years since, I have observed the death of the American Dream through the lens of a decaying public education infrastructure.
By the time I was in upper elementary school, one of my older neighborhood friends had to change school districts because students beat them with a belt on school property while making them say, "Bush is your daddy!" The harshest of racial epithets were flung in the halls of Forest Grove High School a week after President Obama's initial inauguration when I was a student.
The school published an issue of its newspaper where a senior student claimed he was joining the military [in order] "to bomb people." Last spring, students made national media attention by hanging the infamous "Build The Wall" banner from the rafters of the school's common area. And earlier this year, some students officially moved beyond the realms of humanity. Students of Forest Grove High School openly used social media in the exact same ways as ISIS extremists. Multiple students have posted pictures of themselves draped in the American flag, while brandishing assault rifles and wielding a Bible. Exactly like Islamic extremists who pose with AK-47s and the Quran. One student is holding a large caliber assault rifle in one hand, while holding a framed photograph of Jesus Christ, the ultimate harbinger of pacifistic peace, in the other.
All of these photos came from members of a certain club notorious for its acts of hatred. One of the club's executive members, in response to someone saying they were one-eighth Mexican, responded, "Well then one-eighth of you is getting deported." A picture was posted a day after being addressed by school administration on Instagram with the caption "Join the YAF [Young Americans for Freedom] club if you love freedom, Ronald Reagan, and hate hippies." How can a club be "For Freedom," while simultaneously promoting the active hatred of hippies? The answer is simple: their education failed.
Forest Grove has entered an absurd, inverted fascist universe where the teenagers who openly brag about their future military prospects imitate the very people we're sending them to fight. A New York Times article's headline, "Trump Is Making America Meaner," is not the case. Forest Grove has had a broken system of social justice for decades and this is merely a continuation.
Liam Cooper graduated from Forest Grove High School in 2012.