Asa Coon, was 14 years old and a very troubled 14 at that. Having been in trouble with the law before he ever entered his teens, it was obvious to a host of others that this was an angry and disturbed child. Neighbors would tell you that he always “seemed short-tempered and ready to go off at any minute.”
That moment came on October 10th, 2007, when Coon showed up at Success Tech High School in Cleveland, Ohio. Success Tech is an alternative school where Asa was attending until he got suspended for fighting. He was already on probation for hitting his mother, so he knew that this suspension would not bode well for him.
Coon entered the school with two guns, a box of ammunition and three knives. How he managed to enter the building remains a mystery as there are metal detectors in place. Some have said that the detectors were only used “intermittently.”
Dressed in black from head to toe, firing shots, and swearing as he walked through the corridors, Asa wounded four people before he turned the gun on himself. Another young life wasted.
He had told a couple of friends that he was going to blow up the school, but no one took him seriously. One student told CNN “"When he got suspended he said, 'I got something for y'all.' I thought he was just playing, because he, like, said that all the time. But I see that he was for real."
Last year, it was ordered by the court that Asa be psychologically evaluated but Asa was uncooperative. However, it has also been noted that he had been in a psychiatric facility at one point and had tried to commit suicide.
Success Tech is a small magnet school in Cleveland which serves both gifted and troubled youth. Reportedly, Asa had difficulty with relationships and often clashed with the teachers in the building. He was known as a “Goth kid” and a trouble-maker. According to one student, Rasheem Smith, on CBS’ “Early Show,” students had presented their concerns about Coon to the Principal who told them she was too busy.
Fortunately, the gunman was the only person killed – the four others are reportedly going to be okay. However, this is another tragedy that could have been avoided. Reading about Asa you get a feeling of Déjà vu. We have been here before. He fits the profile and the question is again raised, “could this have been avoided?”
Generally speaking, alternative schools which provide education for troubled youth are extremely secure. In instances where a student is sent to an alternative academy for violence in the home school, that student has certain “check-points” where he is searched and assessed before ever reaching a classroom. Apparently, that didn’t happen at Success Tech.
The very fact that this student was able, not only to enter the building but, to enter carrying an arsenal, should raise more than a few questions for police and school officials.
Looking at the whole picture of the travesty, it becomes apparent that the school system, the mental health system, and the courts all failed miserably when it came to Asa Coon. The end result is one that is becoming much too common place.
There are three places that a child should never have to fear being – home, school, and church. Yet, all of those places can be sites of fear.
A child is dead. Two students have been wounded and will never forget October 10th, 2007. Two teachers will recover physically, but what about emotionally? And 200+ kids have been trumatized. Could it have been prevented? Of course it could have.
Ignoring the warning signs that Asa Coon emitted was a costly mistake. His was not some childish rant that could be sluffed off as inconsequential, obviously. When a troubled child threatens such actions we must listen and we must be prepared to act ourselves – for both the child, himself, and those who might be affected by his threats.
Asa let his family know…his classmates know…and the court know that he needed help and they failed to provide for his needs. Have we learned nothing from similar shootings? Are we so encapsulated in our coccoons so as to believe ourselves safe and secure in a very dangerous world? Or are we just so overwhelmed by the hate and the violence that we have given up?
How many more Asa Coon’s are out there? Would you recognize one if you saw him? Asa’s are in every school. Asa’s are in your neighborhoods. Some Asa’s get the help they need while others just slip through the cracks until they kill.