Communication in public administration

Posted: September 5th, 2013

Communication in public administration







Communication in public administration

The case study on Columbine shooting exhibits some communication problems. Prior to this massacre, the perpetrators had suggestive character on psychopathic behavior. The two youths had a website, which contained information on crime and violence. There was need of communication about the strange character of these two perpetrators. Brook’s parents saw the death threats on the website and reported to the Sheriff (Stillman, 2010). No action was taken against Harris and Klebold. The school administration did not take any measures on the existence of the website. This is an indication of communication blockage.

During the massacre, there was miscommunication between the paramedics and local police. The paramedics wanted to treat the injured people first but the local police’s priority was to question the students and faculty. The community felt local police did not arrive in good time to stop the massacre. It is expected they should have tried to negotiate with the killers to stop further killings. The SWAT team was criticized for poor communication with other agencies when rescuing students. For instance, they allowed Patrick Ireland to jump from the library window and they caught him from the ground. There were better ways of retrieving him if they coordinated with paramedics and other agencies (Stillman, 2010).

The school’s administration has communication problem with the students. The type of communication problem observed is status distance. The students and the administration have a difference in status, which becomes a barrier of communication (Stillman, 2010). The administration did not seem to address discipline issues among the students. This is evident because Harris and Klebold did not receive any disciplinary action from the administration. The school management did not take any action on the website even after reports about its content. The website was only shut down by AOL after Harris made it public.

It is estimated that bullying was one of the reasons the perpetrators committed the massacre. Many school administrations do not communicate this issue with the required attention. Bullying makes victims angry, depressed and feelings of vengeance. This is similar to what Harris experienced. He was depressed and haunted by suicidal thoughts and he was under depression medication. School management need to formulate ways of eliminating bullying in school. Strict measures should be taken on students who are caught bullying others. Health conditions related to bullying as well as violence will be subdued in schools (Stillman, 2010).

There is communication problem witnessed as the massacre happened. One of the types is geographical distance. When the shooting started, it was difficult to call for help. The geographical distance was a communication barrier between emergency help and the students. Some of the students were not near a phone to call for help. There was also another problem with the communication tools in the school. Though the police and fire fighters finally came, they were not alerted immediately (Stillman, 2010). Another type of communication problem is pressure. The students were under pressure and some were unable to communicate. The trauma and shock had overwhelmed the students and only a few had courage to call for help. Nielson was one of the brave students who managed to call emergency help line.

After the massacre, the area administration implemented a few measures regarding crisis management. Currently, there is an emergency box in the school. It contains cell phones among other items. The cell phones are meant to facilitate effective communication in case of a crisis. This is a relevant step in improving communication in the school (Stillman, 2010). Other important measures are teaching and training students and staff about effective public communication especially in times of crisis. The administration should ensure there is clear communication between them and the students. The administration has a responsibility of formulating efficient ways of communicating with the students. This massacre occurred due to lack of attention to the students’ social problems.

The administration should address all the major problems affecting the students. These problems are a major contribution to violence, which results to incidents like the Columbine massacre. For instance, the school administration of Columbine High School condoned bullying. The athletes were said to be bullies and they were known as jocks (Stillman, 2010). Harris and Klebold’s violence was inspired by their experience of being bullied for four years. Harris suffered depression and took drugs to mitigate the condition. School administration should ban bullying and punish perpetrators severely.

Attention should be given to students affected by social problems in schools. For instance, victims of bullying should be counseled and assisted to boost their esteem. This will assist the students to overcome feelings of vengeance and violence. A study has confirmed that most school massacres are caused by problems like bullying. There should be a campaign of unity and cohesion among the students. They should strongly be discouraged to discriminate and bully each other. This culture should be eliminated in all schools as soon as possible (Stillman, 2010).

Several techniques may be used to ensure information is received accurately without distortion. One of them is interpreting the message, as it should be. Perception is a communication barrier when people perceive information the wrong way. It is important to understand the language used in the information received. This is what enables an individual to receive the message accurately. Information should be sent and received through the right channels. Wrong channels are a reason of distorting information. Regardless of the geographical or status distance, appropriate channels will retain the accuracy of the information. Avoiding all other barriers of communication will ensure accuracy of the information received or sent. Public administrators should their channels of communication are effective for improved management (Stillman, 2010).


Stillman, R. (2010) Public administration; Concept and cases. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.








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