It appears that the combination of bullying, treatment as an outcast and a propensity or obsession with violent images resulted in school violence.
In addition to such factors and social hierarchy and bullying, mental illness is often one of the issues that perpetrators suffer with. In the most recent and severe case of school violence, the Virginia Tech Shootings, it appears that the gunman (Seung-Hui Cho) suffered from mental illness and it has also been reported that he was bullied prior to entering college (Jenson 2007). There were many warning signs that this particular student was troubled and there were even efforts to get him help.
Since the Tech shooting it has been revealed that students and professors alike believed that the gunmen was disturbed and could commit a violent act on campus. These concerns led one professor to remove Cho from her class because he disturbed the other students and they feared that he would become violent. The shooter was even given a mental health evaluation and others at the school and in the neighboring community attempted to help this young man. However, there attempts proved to be futile when he opened fire in two buildings on the Virginia tech campus killing 32 students and staff (Jenson 2007).
Since the shooting there has been a great deal of debate concerning the type of mental illness he was dealing with and for how long. It was reported that Cho had suffered with mental illness for many years and that his parents tried desperately to get help for their son (Jenson 2007). It is apparent that their attempts and the attempts of school administrators and outside mental health professionals failed miserably. According to Jenson (2007)
Profiles of the perpetrators of school shootings in the past decade reveal that many shooters experienced mental health problems before their decisions to engage in violence (Vossekuil, Fein, Reddy, Borum, & Modzeleski, 2002). In many cases...the perpetrators had been isolated socially from their peers and had been the recipients of bullying and teasing from other students. Other shooters had been diagnosed with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety that went untreated. Mr. Cho was referred for counseling several times at Virginia Tech following his submission of violence-laced poetry and short stories in English classes. Images in his writings included frequent references to hate and death. Unfortunately, his participation in counseling and therapy was sporadic, and no requirements were available to force Mr. Cho to continue his therapy (Jenson 2007)."
The research provided is evidence that social hierarchies, bullying, and mental illness have all contributed to incidences of school violence. Therefore the manners in which these issues are addressed are vitally important to insuring school safety at every level.
It is apparent through the evidence presented that social hierarchies, bullying, and mental illness can all create social isolation, which appears to be a major factor in the development of violence in schools. In each of the instances above the students that become perpetrators were socially isolated from their peers. In each of these instances there were events that occurred that were either ignored completely or not taken seriously enough.
According to Hallende et al. (2007) both children and adolescents that have intimate and supportive friendships benefit greatly and are more likely to experience increased levels of peer acceptance, social know-how, increased amounts of motivation and school involvement, and decreased levels of behavioral problems. In addition the author report that the level of peer friendships during childhood and adolescence is a significant indicator of future psychological health (Hallende et al. 2007).
The authors also point out the necessity of close friendships during adolescence. The authors explain that as teenagers find the way through their social world, strong peer relationships provide several protective benefits (Hallende et al. 2007). For instance,
Adolescents formulate group alliances to provide psychological support and a sense of belonging. An increased need emerges for social support and emotional connections with the peer group. They desire confidants with whom to talk about their peers, personal lives, and challenges. The deeper qualities of friendship such as similarities in personality and emotional intimacy become essential components of adolescent relationships (Hallende et al. 2007, pg 265).
The authors also point out that adolescents that are socially isolated tend to be more vulnerable than most other age groups. This is consistent with the prevalence of school violence in middle schools, high schools and even college campuses. According to the authors suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts are most prevalent during adolescence. In fact past research has asserted that suicidal behavior is linked to low levels of friendship and support (Prinstein, Boergers, Spirito, Little, & Grapentine, 2000). Additionally Adolescents who experience the support of school staff, family, or peers tend to have better coping skills and are more optimistic concerning the future.
On the other hand, adolescents who lack support and feel socially isolated may inflict harm upon themselves through self-mutilating behaviors including suicide (Hallende et al. 2007).
The social isolation that these individual perpetrators experienced led them to be labeled as outcast. As such they were stifled in both their ability and desire to make friends and become members of the social group. Social isolation can lead to depression in addition to suicidal and homicidal thoughts. Human beings are social creatures and social isolation can lead to dangerous behaviors that are likely to affect the individual that is suffering from social isolation and the people around the individual.
Prevention of School Violence
In recent years there has been a concerted effort to prevent school violence from occurring. Prevention measures have included zero tolerance policies for bullying and weapons. In addition school districts throughout the country have trained teachers and administrators as it relates to identifying early warning signs and dealing with these signals when they occur (Bender et al., 2001).
Most experts agree that paying attention to early warnings is critical to decreasing the amount of school violence that occurs (Bender et al., 2001, Daniels, 2002). Following violence at several schools in the United States researchers and educators alike inquired of the schools as it related to the signs that were ignored or not taken seriously enough. In many cases, teachers, parents and students alike did not understand the impact that bullying was having on the perpetrator (Burstyn et al., 2001). In light of several shootings educators, parents and students alike have a better understanding of the impact that bullying has on some children. While it is true that most kids that are bullied do not end up harming themselves or anyone else, almost all of the students that have been the perpetrators of school violence were bullied.
With this being understood, many schools and school districts have a zero tolerance policy as it relates to bullying (Daniels, 2002). Such policies often require teachers, students and parents to sign contracts that bullying will be stopped if it is seen occurring and that the bully ill face consequences for his or her actions. Some schools actually establish this no tolerance policy by holding assemblies for students at the beginning of the school year.
In addition no tolerance policies also extend to the presence of weapons on school campuses (Jones & Compton, 2003). These weapons include everything from guns to baseball bats. In some cases it is believed the no-tolerance policies have been taken to an extreme and students have been suspended for having compasses and other sharp objects but were not intending to do any harm.
Another prevention effort is peer mediation; Mediation has long been used to assist opposing parties in coming to an agreement or understanding that is beneficial for everyone involved. According to Cassella (2001), the idea behind peer mediation is that students who are trained mediators can assemble with fellow students who are fighting to assist them in solving their problems, in so doing more serious conflict that could erupt if the disputants were not mediated can be avoided (Cassella, 2001). According to the author, "This logic suggests that violence in school is alleviated when disputants can air their grievances in the presence of trained mediators who are capable of employing mediation and conflict resolution strategies (Cassella, 2001)."
The purpose of this discussion was to examine school violence as it relates to the causes and prevention measures. The research explored the impact of social hierarchy, bullying, and mental illness on school violence. The investigation found that the social hierarchy at Columbine high school may have contributed greatly to the violence that occurred at the school. It is apparent from the research that athlete were held in high regard and were able to escape the consequences of their actions. It is also apparent that teachers, students and even law enforcement were aware of the hostility that was forming in the community prior to the shootings. The research insists that the social hierarchy at the school created…