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An eerily similar set of incidents in Cape Girardeau's and Jackson's junior high schools earlier this month sent a sad but ultimately satisfying message: When it comes to school violence, most children know what to do.

The incidents happened March 15 at Central Junior High School and R.O. Hawkins Junior High School.

At Central, an eighth-grader made a comment about getting a gun and shooting people. Some students overheard him and reported the matter to adults. The boy was suspended, although a search of the school and his home performed by the school resource officer uncovered no firearms.

Obviously, Central Junior High students understand that there is no room in our violent society for remarks about guns, even if uttered off-the-cuff. They did absolutely the right thing by reporting their classmate.

It was much the same at Hawkins, when another eighth-grade boy was suspended after he threatened to shoot classmates. A girl approached him, and he said he was going to get a gun and shoot her too. The boy's mother said there aren't any weapons at home, and the student said he wasn't serious.

Well, that's not good enough these days.

As Cape Girardeau superintendent Dan Steska said: "In all cases, we'd rather be safe than sorry ... . Some parents might think we're being overly cautious if it involves their children, but other parents may not think so."

And Jackson superintendent Ron Anderson said: "The key is to listen and report what's said. It's the critical part."

So true. Remember Santana High School in Santee, Calif., where 15-year-old Andy Williams shot and killed two of his classmates and wounded 13 others on March 5? He'd talked so much about shooting people that his friends patted him down that morning.

But they never told the principal.

This week in Charelston, Mo., a popular high school senior committed suicide in the school's parking lot. It is reported he mentioned suicide to at least one other student. The information wasn't reported to school authorities.

The comparison between classroom and airport behavior can't be ignored. Every airline passenger knows you can't make an off-handed remark about a bomb while in line at the security checkpoint. To do so means an unscheduled layover with the authorities.

Parents should stress the same set of guidelines for their school-age children.