Could School Shooting Have Been Prevented?

Published, NY Times: March 27, 1998

To the Editor:

In ''Death in a Middle School'' (editorial, March 26), you say ''closer monitoring of troubled students and referrals to psychiatric counseling might have prevented this tragedy.'' But you go on to say that ''ultimately, the unremarkable qualities of the Jonesboro suspects are what make finding answers so difficult.''

As a psychotherapist who has worked with children, I agree with the first statement, not the last. A clinician specializing in children would not have difficulty finding the kinds of mental and emotional disturbances present in a child preparing to murder. The masks of children are very transparent, though understandably not to busy or untrained parents and teachers who are emotionally invested in not seeing problems in the children they care for. If the boys arrested had had a routine evaluation by a competent school psychologist, it's possible this tragedy would not have occurred.

New York, March 26, 1998