School shooting HAS happened here
There are those who say that something like the Sandy Hook school shooting could never happen here, not in Hickman County! This is a small community and we all know each other.
Your memory is either short or you haven’t lived in Hickman County long enough to remember a school shooting at Hickman County High School (HCHS) that could have been far, far worse than Sandy Hook. This incident could have killed more than 180 students, making it the worst school attack in American history – and it’s not always a disturbed student, sometimes it’s a teacher.
Let’s go back in time – to Sunday, May 20, 1990. Note: The video shown here, the only one on YouTube pertaining to this incident has been hotly disputed by two students were enrolled at the time, as the YouTube page shows. The YouTube video is a later student’s recollection of what his father told him.
Vice Principal Ron Wallace, 41, dropped by the school early to check on preparations for the coming Tuesday’s graduation ceremony at which 180 seniors would pass from high school to the adult world. He wanted it to be perfect since his daughter would be one of the graduates. As he pulled into the parking lot, he recognized another car parked there and stopped by the science lab first.
He was stunned to see Donald Wayne Givens, 50, who’d been a long-time teacher at the school. He was stunned to see what Givens was doing. Givens had lit two candles and was opening the natural gas jets around the lab, according to documents on file at the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. Wallace rushed at him, trying to stop him from blowing up the school, but Givens pulled out a gun and shot him to death.
Givens then went around the school, setting three separate fires, using an accelerant, including one in the auditorium where the rehearsal was to take place. At this point I’m not sure just how Givens was caught, stopped and arrested. When he was arrested, he admitted the murder and the arson.
Despite the use of accelerants, indicating pre-meditation, the Appeals Court ruled that “Mr. Givens committed this offense without reason, even without a bad reason. It’s just that somehow he convinced himself that he was being mistreated in such a fashion that he needed to strike back, and this is the way that he chose to do it.”
Two psychologists testified that Givens was insane, but a psychiatrist said he was just “mentally ill” – although he admitted that was “a close call.” The Circuit Court accepted that he was sane and sentenced him to two consecutive prison terms for murder and aggravated arson. The Appeals Court on February 11, 1993 found that Givens was not a “dangerous offender” and changed the consecutive sentences to concurrent ones.
Givens, a bachelor with a Master’s Degree from Middle TN State University, had never been arrested, much less convicted for a criminal offense. He’d been a teacher for 25 years, teaching in Hickman County for 17 of those years.
"Donald couldn't have been in his right mind," said his father, Joe Givens (now 70) of Nunnelly, who said in the weeks leading up to the shooting was prone to forget things and was obsessed with his privacy,
He said Donald "would sit in the house day and night with the shades down so no one could see him," but said he never noticed anything really wrong except he was "real forgetful."
"I'd tell him something, and a little while later he'd ask me the same question again, and I'd have to tell him all over again."
A couple of hours after the shooting he was back home and "I couldn't tell anything was wrong. He thumbed through the newspaper, but he didn't seem to be reading it."
He said his son belongs in a mental institute for evaluation because "he needs to be in a better environment." He said his son is now suicidal, according to the Associated Press.
''We're all hurt by it, all disgusted by it, all angry,'' senior Marie Green said tearfully told the Associated Press as she left the May 22 memorial service for Principal Wallace.
Classes for the 850 students were suspended for the rest of the year. The flag outside the school was at half-staff. The graduation rehearsal was reset for Friday prior to the formal exercise later that day.
Reporters were barred from the gathering in the auditorium, where a partition was set to hide a stage curtain burned when three fires were set Sunday.
Afterward, students said school officials encouraged them to discuss their feelings with teachers and to get together to share their grief.
Principal Rick Brewer addressed the group and ''ended up crying himself,'' senior Tina Barnes said.
Before the service, Brewer met with teachers and urged them to carry on for the sake of the seniors despite the upheaval.
''What has to happen is that we make this work from here on,'' he told them. ''Everything that Ron was part of cannot come to a stop.''
What is it that sends a Donald Givens or an Adam Lanza over the edge? In the case of Donald Givens, of Nunnelley, Superintendent Wayne Qualls said several student complaints had been lodged against Givens, and the teacher may have feared he was about to lose his tenured job.
Yet this is regarded in Hickman County more as a tragedy than as a cause of finger-pointing. Givens was caring for two elderly parents as well as a brother incapacitated in a motorcycle accident – plus he was responsible for taking care of the family farm.
Can the same be said for Adam Lanza?
Tennessee Teacher Kills Vice Principal – Deseret News
Graduation Rehearsal Becomes Memorial Service for Grieving Students
Teacher Arrested in Killing at School – LA Times
Teacher Charged in Slaying - New York Times
State of Tennessee vs. Donald Givens
Teacher Accused in Slaying May Be Evaluated – Florence Daily Times-Alabama
©2012 by Jim Moore. All rights reserved.