Lunchroom dynamics split the opinion Wednesday on whether Central High School students believe “outcasts” at their own school were prone to violence.
Their comments came a day after two students –tagged as loners in a “Trenchcoat Mafia” group — gunned down 15 people at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., before turning guns on themselves.
Some Central students say peers are treated with respect regardless of group identity, while others say certain groups harass less-popular students — building a motive for revenge.
Central and Columbine have about the same number of students — 1,600 and 1,800 respectively. Central Principal Bart Albright — who was an assistant principal at Littleton High School, about three miles from Columbine, in the mid-1970s — said friction among cliques or gangs has been tied to vandalism at Central but nothing more.
During lunch Wednesday, junior Javan Brewer identified the cliques based on where they sat in the lunchroom.
He said he sits at the “black table,” and points to the “rich, preppy” tables behind him and the freshmen, “skater,” and loner tables on the other side. Those who don’t “fit in” get picked on, he said.
Students who don’t fit in anywhere stay out of the lunchroom altogether, junior Melissa Hupp said. Ms. Hupp said Central has its own group of quiet students who dress in trench coats and keep to themselves, but she worries more about a few students in her history class who are intrigued by violence.
“They ramble on and on about destruction,” she said. “They’re not ashamed of it.”
John Mark Day, columnist for The Outlook school newspaper, said it was impossible to go through the yearbook and predetermine which students might be prone to violence based on the people with whom they associate or the clothes they wear.
They agreed most groups were inclusive and students not purposely isolated, but senior Cassie Kerner admits the group of honors students can’t speak for students they’ve never met.
Senior Kenneth Thompson, who eats lunch with other members of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, knows students who are outcasts at Central. Mr. Thompson used to attend school in South Carolina and remembers how hard it was to deal with always being picked on.
“You just get this rage,” he said, “and at the peak of your rage, all you think of is kill.”