Mother of Columbine school shooter Dylan Klebold speaks in Oshkosh

This 1998 file yearbook photo from Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. shows Dylan Klebold.
This 1998 file yearbook photo from Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. shows Dylan Klebold.
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 4:14 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2022 at 8:21 PM CDT
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OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - A special event was held in Oshkosh Tuesday afternoon, where the mother Dylan Klebold, one of the two gunmen responsible for the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado, is expected to speak.

Sue Klebold is the author of the New York Times Bestseller, “A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the aftermath of tragedy.”

For the past several years, Klebold has traveled the country, sharing her message about her experience before and after the Columbine High School shootings. She has also become a strong advocate for mental health awareness.”

In the first of two presentations, Klebold met with educators, students, and members of the Oshkosh Boys and Girls Club at the downtown convention center. She addressed her own personal struggle with her son, Dylan, who along with Eric Harris murdered 13 people and wounded 21 more at their high school, making it one of the nation’s worst mass shootings in 1999. Klebold and Harris took their own lives after police responded to the scene.

“Sue talks a lot about mental health. She talks a lot about how to talk to your kids about mental health. She talks a lot about signs of depression and things they had missed along the way. But it’s a really great message of really spending time with your kids and hearing what they have to say,” Boys & Girls Club of Oshkosh CEO Tracy Ogden said.

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Dylan Klebold's mother has become an advocate for mental health since Dylan helped carry out one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.

Ogden said she saw Klebold speak elsewhere and felt inspired by her story, which is why the Boys & Girls Club and the Women’s Fund paired up to bring her to the Fox Valley.

“She has spent 15, 16 years before she went public dissecting information, journals, his entries, her entries, talking to the victims, all of that, to try to understand the whole process so hopefully we can get some information as parents on how to do our jobs better,” Women’s Fund Executive Director Karlene Grabner said.

The shooting at Columbine led to schools across the country putting new emphasis on security and zero-tolerance policies.

During the speech Tuesday night, Klebold told the 500 people in the audience, “I don’t need to speak in Colorado. If I do, I rarely speak there and I don’t speak in Denver. It’s still a very uncomfortable place for me to be.”

She added, “There was blame against our family and there was blame against the Harris family, of the other shooter, but I couldn’t understand why it happened. Everybody expected me to be able to say, ‘I did this and therefore this happened.’”

Before the incident, Klebold says her son had a stable home, and she thought they had a good relationship and open communication.

“I learned that I was delusional about a lot of that. What I believed was communication was not the kind of communication that I think my son needed at the end of his life.”

Now Klebold works to encourage other parents not to take lightly the warning signs of suicide, or even worse, a murder-suicide.

“I am no longer a judgmental person -- not that I was so judgmental before, but I am certainly less judgmental now,” she added.

It’s also an issue that impacts every community, and not just in broken homes or among kids with a history of school trouble.

Klebold says so many people want an obvious answer.

“It’s not a simple thing, but we find comfort in thinking it’s simple because we want to feel safe. We want to be able to think, it makes us feel much better, if we say, ‘What kind of mother was that? What kind of parenting went on in that house?’ because it makes us feel it couldn’t possibly happen to us,” she said.

“The chances that someone you love would do something like this are one in millions,” she went on, “but the chances that you love someone right now who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts...much higher, and the chance that if they might not be suicidal they might be struggling with their own mental health issues.”

"The chances that someone you love would do something like this are one in millions, but the chances that you love someone right now may be struggling with suic