Tragedy beyond comprehension;Opinion

15th March 1996 at 00:00
Dunblane - small, quiet, prosperous - is among the least likely places where one would expect an atrocity such as that on Wednesday. But the attack itself is as unbelievable as it is horrific. In a small education system like Scotland's there is a feeling of closeness among all who are involved in any way. Inevitably, some immediate talk is of increased security at all schools, but that seems a misplaced although understandable reaction.

An angry and impotent public wants action. Unable to share fully in the grief which devastates those most immediately affected, they call for intervention by officialdom to ensure that a similar tragedy cannot happen again. Yet in the immediate aftermath, a calm desire to try to understand the circumstances before reaching conclusions is the sensible response and one which to their credit most MPs and commentators were making on Wednesday.

Violence in schools comes in many forms, although fortunately serious incidents remain so rare that the murder of a pupil or, as in London just before Christmas, that of a headteacher is shocking news. When teachers rightly seek better protection for themselves and their pupils and when they lobby ministers and obtain official reports, they are not concerned with incidents like that at Dunblane. Totally irrational behaviour with devastating consequences cannot be legislated for or probably guarded against.

That said, there will be a full inquiry. Society cannot simply throw up its hands and allow a madman to have his rampage. Not to seek the truth about motive and opportunity would be to dishonour the memory of those who have died. Out of the bleakest moment there has to come some blink of hope that a future incident can be prevented or its effects minimised.

A survey of parents (page two) suggests that safety at school is their first concern. Today everyone knows why.

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