Two decades after what was then considered one of the worst shootings in U.S. history, discussions to demolish Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, are gaining traction as the building — which was remodeled and reopened four months after the shooting — has increasingly attracted visitors who some worry could be potential copycat shooters, NPR reports.
The Jefferson County School District is looking at the results of a survey of 7,000 people about the possible demolition of the building, one of many district safety enhancement proposals being weighed that also include moving the building and reconstructing it with new safety features.
Jefferson County Superintendent Jason Glass recently wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post pushing for the demolition of the building, saying that it seems to “serve as a macabre inspiration for the contagion of school shootings in the United States over the past two decades.”
The discussion to demolish Columbine High School is surfacing at a time when many other districts and institutions have faced similar decisions.
While leaving sites of tragedy standing can serve as monuments honoring the memory of those who lost their lives, it is also common for the sites of notorious crimes, like apartment complexes and houses, to be demolished, transformed, and/or relocated. When making these decisions, some experts say it is important to first consult survivors and those who will be affected by the potential redesign or relocation.
Following the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children and six adults dead, a 28-member Sandy Hook School Task Force voted unanimously to tear down the building, and a referendum also showed that an overwhelming majority of the community preferred to demolish the site.
In 2016, the renovated building reopened, sharing almost no resemblance to its predecessor. Last year, a Sandy Hook commission also voted unanimously on a design for a permanent town memorial that will serve to honor the memory of those who died.
After the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and University, commonly known as Virginia Tech, Norris Hall was left vacant for months as the university grappled with what, if anything, to do with that space. More than five months after the shooting, a committee began reviewing proposals of how to use the site of the massacre, which was located on the building's second floor.
In 2008, the second story of the building reopened after a $1 million renovation that repurposed the space for what is now The Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention. Although the space itself has been transformed, its redesignation and reclamation into a place for violence prevention research still commemorates those lost in the tragedy, serving as a comfort for those who survived.