Parents Blaming Parents

The growing number of deadly shootings in America's schools has given rise to a new trend in the nation's courtrooms: parents of the victims suing parents of their attackers.

Lisa Belkin wrote a story for this week's New York Times Magazine on the subject and spoke with CBS This Morning's Russ Mitchell.

Belkin says that in every community that has suffered one of these shootings -- Littleton, Colorado; West Paducah, Kentucky; Pearl, Mississippi; Jonesboro, Arkansas – there are parent vs. parent lawsuits pending.

"In every one of those communities, it's divided the community," says Belkin. "A tragedy like this leaves aftershocks that linger, I think, for years."

In the aftermath of the Columbine massacre, the parents of one of the victims, Isaiah Shoels, have sued the parents of gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

"The Shoels feel ostracized," says Belkin. "They have left Littleton. They have moved out of town. They're trying to buy a house in Denver. They don't want to be anywhere near where the son was shot. And that's true of a lot of the families, of a lot of the victims in a lot of these places."

New York Times reporter Lisa Belkin

Belkin says Michael Shoels, Isaiah's father, "believes that this would not have happened if these children were properly brought up. That's the point of all these lawsuits.

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger, most famous for defending Dr. Jack Kevorkian, is representing the Shoels family.

Belkin says Fieger, "sees this as a way to find out what happened. We want to know what was happening in Eric Harris' bedroom. We want to know what Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were doing in the garage. He says their parents know. The only tool we have in the American judicial system is a subpoena. He sees it as an exploration as to what is going wrong with our kids."

The lawsuits break new ground legally, Belkin says, and raise new questions about the limits of parental responsibility. Though, she says, some people she interviewed for her article question whether the courts are the place to dissect a parent/child relationship.

"There's a circle of blame in American society and it's expanded slowly through the courts over the years. This is one more step. It hasn't happened before in history. But kids haven't taken guns into schoolrooms before in history, and shot up all their classmates. It's a fascinating legal question. It's a fascinating parenting question. Are you legally responsible, as a parent, when your child does something evil?