Jokela High School reopens after deadly multiple shooting

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Jokela School, the scene of the shooting

Jokela High School in Tuusula, Finland, scene of the Jokela school shooting, has recommenced classes. Earlier this month, student Pekka-Eric Auvinen, 18, fatally wounded eight people with his handgun before turning the weapon on himself in the country's worst ever school shooting. He died later in hospital, having never regained consciousness.

All last week repair teams have been working to eradicate all traces of the event, with large numbers of bullet holes in walls and doors being filled in, broken windows and torn blinds being replaced, and total renovation of one corridor which Auvinen had attempted to set fire to.

Students had previously been permitted into the school last week, in order to collect belongings left behind as they rushed to evacuate the school. On Monday, the school's 450 pupils began to attend temporary facilities set up at nearby Tuusula Primary School as well as the local church.

An interior window shot through by the killer

Tuusula spokeswoman Heidi Hagman told reporters yesterday that at first school days would be considerably shortened, adding "Today the students will spend time getting used to the renovated and repaired school area.

"Students and teachers are getting support from Red Cross crisis workers and psychologists during the first days of school."

Esa Ukkola, head of education in Tuusula, spoke to reporters about the fact that students had been shown around the renovated school. "We need to show there is nobody lurking in the cupboards any more. We're trying to have as normal a school day as possible. There are dozens of extra people to ensure we can do everything in small enough groups."

The shooting has prompted public anger in Finland at the media attention directed to it, with a feeling that it undermines the placid reputation of the country. People have questioned the decision of a survey last month to designate Finland as the world's "most livable country". Psycho-social service manager Anna Cantell-Forsbom from nearby Vantaa has spoken out about her view that the shooting was mainly caused by a lack of psychiatric care available to the Finnish youth and therefore did not reflect on Finnish society. The shooting has also prompted a move by the Finnish government to raise the legal age for gun ownership from 15 years to 18 years.

Finland is expected to set up a commission of inquiry this week to investigate the murders. The government will set aside resources for the ministry of social affairs, health and education as well as the local municipality for the investigation. Meanwhile, local authorities have shown a four-year response plan to the government, asking for five million Euro to fund it. Half will go towards therapy and occupational guidance for affected residents, while the other half would go to school guidance counsellors, psychologists, school healthcare personnel and other experts. The ultimate goal of the plan is the complete recovery of those adversely affected by the shooting.


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