November 01, 2000 2 min read

New Rules: In the old days—that is, before the shootings at Columbine High School—police had a standard response when confronted with armed suspects in schools and other heavily populated buildings. The first officers on the scene set up a perimeter and left the dangerous work for the SWAT team. But because of what happened at Columbine, that tactic is on its way out. Instead, reports Timothy Harper in “Shoot to Kill” in the October issue of the Atlantic Monthly, police departments all over the country are switching to something called “rapid response,” in which officers are taught “to enter a building if they are the first to arrive at the scene, to chase the gunman, and to kill or disable him as quickly as possible,” even if he’s holding hostages. The new method is a direct result of the events of April 20, 1999, when SWAT team members did not enter Columbine until 43 minutes after the first officers had arrived. During that time, nearly all the victims were shot by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Fifteen families of Columbine victims have filed lawsuits against the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. However, as, Harper writes, “The consensus among law-enforcement authorities across the country is that Columbine was handled by the book—but that the book should be rewritten.” This is unsettling for some law-enforcement officers, including Larry Layman, a Peoria, Illinois, policeman who has trained in the new rapid-response method. “It’s contrary to what’s become almost instinct for us,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to go into a situation like Columbine with those guys, and I wouldn’t blame another cop for not wanting to go in with me. It scares me.”

Heartland Politics: It was national news last year when the Kansas State Board of Education, in a 6-to-4 vote, adopted new standards for the teaching of science in the state’s public schools. The controversial guidelines allowed Kansas schools to delete references to evolution in science curricula. “The board’s decision,” writes Peter Keating in “God and Man in Oz” in the October issue of George, “had made Kansas the butt of late-night talk show humor and the target of sophisticates’ scorn.” And because five of the board’s 10 members were up for re-election, and three of those five were conservative Republicans, it also set the stage for a highly contested Republican primary pitting conservatives against moderates. Keating’s article zeroes in on the race between board Chairwoman Linda Holloway, a conservative Christian who voted in favor of the new standards, and Sue Gamble, a moderate who accepts both God and evolution. Both candidates spent large sums of money on their campaigns—Holloway raised almost $90,000, Gamble about $36,000. Holloway even became the first Kansas state school board member ever to air TV commercials. In the end, though, Gamble won the primary with 60 percent of the votes and advanced to November’s general election. Elsewhere in the state, moderates won two seats that had been held by board members who supported the anti-evolution standards. But Christian conservatives, in Kansas and elsewhere, remain a political force to be reckoned with. “Their ranks are growing,” Keating reports, “and their fight for the most basic value of all—the very existence of God—is transforming local politics all over the U.S.”
—David Hill