School Climate & Safety

Two Students Die, 22 Injured in Ore. Rampage

By Millicent Lawton — May 27, 1998 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Thurston High School community in Springfield, Ore., was struggling late last week to cope with the all-too-familiar horror unleashed when a gunman opened fire in the school’s cafeteria, killing two students and injuring 22 more. A freshman student accused of the shootings was being held by police.

The 1,500-student school was to be open last Friday, one day after the May 21 incident, for grieving and counseling, not classes. At the request of state education officials, a federal assistance team of crisis counselors and school psychologists headed to Springfield, a suburb of Eugene with 51,000 residents.

Coordinated by the U.S. departments of Education and Justice and drawn from all over the country, the team had done similar grim duty at the site of other recent school shootings in West Paducah, Ky., and Jonesboro, Ark. (“Legislators Tackle Youth Crime via New Juvenile-Justice Routes,” April 15, 1998 and “In the Wake of Tragedy,” Dec. 10, 1997.)

At Thurston High School, Mikael Nickolauson, 17, was killed by the gunfire that erupted at 8:05 a.m. as hundreds of students gathered before classes in the cafeteria. Ben Walker, also 17, died later at a hospital. Four students remained in critical condition late last week.

The alleged gunman, Kipland P. Kinkel, 15, had been arrested and reportedly expelled the day before for having a gun at school. Police said that the weapon had been stolen and that the youth had been released to his parents’ custody after the gun arrest.

Police said the day of the shootings Mr. Kinkel had been carrying three guns--a .22-caliber rifle, a .22-caliber handgun, and a Glock pistol. It was unclear last week where he had obtained them. Under Oregon law, he could be charged as an adult in the shootings but could not be executed if found guilty.

About 90 minutes after the shootings, sheriff’s deputies discovered two dead adults, a man and a woman, inside Mr. Kinkel’s house. Police said they believed the bodies to be those of the suspect’s parents, but their identities had not been officially confirmed late last week.

‘Disturbing Pattern’

The Springfield shootings again hit a national nerve worn raw by a succession of particularly violent incidents at schools. This latest incident marked the fifth multiple-victim shooting at a school or school function since October.

The tragedy in Oregon also followed closely a fatal shooting May 19 at Lincoln County High School in Fayetteville, Tenn. Three days before their graduation, senior Jacob Davis allegedly shot classmate Nicholas Creson three times at close range, in an apparent dispute over a girl.

President Clinton telephoned the principal of Thurston High and the mayor of Springfield to offer his sympathy and support. U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley in a statement called the recent spate of gun violence by students “a new and disturbing pattern.” He said, “I am troubled by the disconnection that seems to haunt too many of our children and by their easy access to guns.”

At a briefing, Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon said adults need to examine “what kind of despair drives children to this kind of violence?”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Norma Paulus sounded an angry and defensive note. “This is not a school problem. This is a societal problem,” she said. She laid blame on the legislature for approving last year just $10 million of her request for $40 million for the Head Start program, which, she said, “we know works and helps prevent this.”

“The number of abused and neglected children in this state is an absolute disgrace,” she continued. “Both the governor and I and the boards of education have been saying this. ... It’s time for other people to wake up.”

Staff Writer Andrew Trotter contributed to this report.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the May 27, 1998 edition of Education Week as Two Students Die, 22 Injured in Ore. Rampage

Events

School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Another State Will Let Teachers Carry Guns. What We Know About the Strategy
Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill allowing teachers to carry guns with administrators' permission a year after the Covenant School shooting.
5 min read
People protest outside the House chamber after legislation passed that would allow some teachers to be armed in schools during a legislative session on April 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn.
People protest outside the House chamber after legislation passed that would allow some teachers to be armed in schools during a legislative session on April 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. Tennessee could join more than 30 other states in allowing certain teachers to carry guns on campus. There's virtually no research on the strategy's effectiveness, and it remains uncommon despite the proliferation of state laws allowing it.
George Walker IV/AP
School Climate & Safety Video WATCH: Columbine Author on Myths, Lessons, and Warning Signs of Violence
David Cullen discusses how educators still grapple with painful lessons from the 1999 shooting.
1 min read
School Climate & Safety From Our Research Center How Much Educators Say They Use Suspensions, Expulsions, and Restorative Justice
With student behavior a top concern among educators now, a new survey points to many schools using less exclusionary discipline.
4 min read
Audrey Wright, right, quizzes fellow members of the Peace Warriors group at Chicago's North Lawndale College Prep High School on Thursday, April 19, 2018. Wright, who is a junior and the group's current president, was asking the students, from left, freshmen Otto Lewellyn III and Simone Johnson and sophomore Nia Bell, about a symbol used in the group's training on conflict resolution and team building. The students also must memorize and regularly recite the Rev. Martin Luther King's "Six Principles of Nonviolence."
A group of students at Chicago's North Lawndale College Prep High School participates in a training on conflict resolution and team building on Thursday, April 19, 2018. Nearly half of educators in a recent EdWeek Research Center survey said their schools are using restorative justice more now than they did five years ago.
Martha Irvine/AP
School Climate & Safety 25 Years After Columbine, America Spends Billions to Prevent Shootings That Keep Happening
Districts have invested in more personnel and physical security measures to keep students safe, but shootings have continued unabated.
9 min read
A group protesting school safety in Laurel County, K.Y., on Feb. 21, 2018. In the wake of a mass shooting at a Florida high school, parents and educators are mobilizing to demand more school safety measures, including armed officers, security cameras, door locks, etc.
A group calls for additional school safety measures in Laurel County, Ky., on Feb. 21, 2018, following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in which 14 students and three staff members died. Districts have invested billions in personnel and physical security measures in the 25 years since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.
Claire Crouch/Lex18News via AP