As the publication of my third novel Liars’ Games approaches–due out later this summer–I decided to revisit one of my earlier posts about school violence. In the U.S. we hear about school shootings, threats, bullying, and lockdowns almost on a weekly basis, it seems. The problems occur not only in high schools, but also elementary schools, middle schools, colleges, and universities. Three of the most well-known cases are the December, 2012, shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the April, 2007, shooting at Virginia Polytechnic Institutes and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg, Virginia, and the April, 1999, shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.
According to a survey of students aged 12-18 conducted by the CDC in 2011 and posted on the internet, 5.4 percent of students reported carrying a weapon (gun, knife, club) to school on one or more days during the 30 days before the survey. If that’s not scary enough, in 2009, 7 percent of teachers reported that they have been threatened with injury or physically attacked by a student from their school. Between 20 and 37 percent of students reported that gangs were present in their schools, and 19 percent of public schools reported 20 or more number of violent incidents which could be classified as severe violence, including rape or attempted rape, physical attack or fight with a weapon, threat with a weapon, etc. in 2009-2010.
When I began working on Liars’ Games, a novel about a principal working at a dangerous high school, I researched school violence. I wanted to show what school administrators, teachers, and our children must deal with in school. I chose Colorado as the setting for several reasons: the Columbine shooting, the 110 gangs and 12,741 gang members that plague the Denver metro area, and because I’ve lived in that area twice in the past twenty-five years, so I’m familiar with it.
In Liars’ Games a genius college professor who hates lying is stuck in witness protection, along with her three-year-old son. Through a political maneuver, she ends up working as a principal at a high school full of gangs, drug dealers, and disgruntled employees. She’s in over her head and terrified, especially when she finds out a stranger is watching her and her son, but her handler can’t or won’t move her. She must figure out how to survive in a world where everyone seems out to get her. It’s a book that on the surface deals with school violence and fear, but at the heart of it is a woman’s struggle with lying and deception, trust, self-identity, and what at times feels like the moral decline of society.
I don’t expect to solve any problems with my book, but I hope it will give some insight to our school system, give people something to think about, and entertain the reader at the same time.
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