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Since juvenile records are sealed
during ongoing investigations, the authors used multiple sources from
available national press reports, each of which was identified by more than
one source, to create a list of possible causal factors. Bender,
McLauchlin, & Shubert (2001) then outlined some of the potential causes for
shootings as reported by multiple sources in the media. The data reveal
several conclusions of concern:
1) Even though none of the perpetrators was identified as special
need student, each demonstrated some indicators to peers of quite
serious emotional problems and each demonstrated a low regard for human
life.
2) The perpetrators were usually completely alienated from their
family and friends. Each had "warned" others in advance of the violence
that may occur by talking about killing in some context.
3) Each of the perpetrators was a White male.
4) The perpetrators seemed to have an average or above average
intelligence.
5) The perpetrators seemed to be very deliberate in the violent
actions on the day of the shootings.
When looking at the Colorado and Georgia shootings, some
consistencies arise:
From an emotional standpoint, an analysis and review of the media
reports on the Colorado and Georgia shooting incidents suggest that similar
general factors were observed. Each of the boys who was responsible for the
shootings showed some form of emotional problems. For example, the
perpetrator in Georgia, T. J. Solomon, was under medical treatment for
depression (Skeesis, 1999). Individuals at Columbine High School in
Colorado described the shooter Eric Harris as a "troubled teen" who
suffered from depression and obsession. Similarly, his co-perpetrator,
Dylan Klebold, was thought of as a follower who went astray. The police and
fellow students described them as disaffected outcasts..
There was also similarities in alienation: Each of the shooters in
these two events was separated from family and friends and often picked on
at school. Another Columbine High School student said Harris and Klebold
would "walk with their heads down, because if they looked up they'd get
thrown into lockers and get called a 'fag'" (Cannon, Streisand, & McGraw,
1999). Further, their well-known membership in the "trench-coat Mafia"
suggests an alienation from the larger school community. This seemed to
indicate that these boys were seeking to "fit in." T.J. Solomon was viewed
by most of his peers as a "nerd," "really shy," and "not real popular."
Time magazine reported, "He was described as both a Boy Scout and a
troubled youth" (Cloud, 1999).
In both cases, there were prior warnings of violence. Before the
Columbine High School shooting, a video made by Harris and Klebold for a
class showed the boys acting out a scene that involved anger, violence, and
revenge (Skeesis, 1999). In the Heritage High School shooting, after
breaking up with his girlfriend, Solomon's friends said he was very
troubled and angry and spoke of suicide and of bringing a gun to school
(Pressley, 1999). Even the day before the shooting, he told two other
students he would "blow up this classroom" and that he had no reason to
live (Cloud, 1999). As in the earlier instances, these warnings were
overlooked.
As noted before, guns were also part of this scenario. The guns used
by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were the first in the string of school
shootings that were actually purchased (Skeesis, 1999). A previous
Columbine student, Mark Manes, bought a Tec-DC9 at a local gun show and
then later gave it to Harris and Klebold. Robyn Anderson, Klebold's
girlfriend, also said she bought a Hi-Point semiautomatic carbine and two
1969 Savage shotguns for Klebold. In the Conyers, Georgia, shooting, T.J.
Solomon took the guns and bullets he used from the unlocked display case
and drawer in his family's basement.
Lastly, as recognized in the shootings analyzed by Bender,
McLauchlin, & Shubert. (2001), each perpetrator in these two shootings
demonstrated evidence of a decreasing respect for life. The dismay of the
Columbine shooting is the large number of victims and the reported
statements made by Klebold and Harris previous to and during their rampage,
which demonstrate their callous disregard for life. Even as early as June
1998, they had constructed pipe bombs and tested them in the surrounding
wilderness. In December, Harris started seeing a psychiatrist who
prescribed psychotropic drugs for mental problems (Skeesis, 1999). It is
also known that the two boys boasted to a friend about mutilating animals,
which may be consistent with this violent type of behavior.
Farrington (1998), stated that individuals who commit one type of
violent offense tend to commit others in addition to other nonviolent
offenses as well as co-occurring problems such as substance abuse and
sexual promiscuity. There is significant continuity from childhood
aggression to youth violence. The major long-term predictors are biological
(low heart rate), individual (high impulsiveness and low intelligence),
family factors (poor supervision, harsh discipline, a violent parents,
large family size, a young mother, a broken family), peer delinquency, low
socioeconomic status, urban residence, and a high-crime neighborhood (p.
421)
Data from the National Household Education Survey (NHES, 1995) were
analyzed to compare how parents' and students' compare in how they perceive
school violence predictors: incidences of being attacked while in school,
availability of substances of abuse, such as drugs, alcohol and marijuana,
and actual use of these substances while in school. Results indicate that
while the parents and students have varied perceptions not under the
parents' or schools' control as good predictors of school violence, such as
assignment of schools and student friends' aspirations, both see some
practices and policies that are significantly associated with school
violence. Parents perceive aversive school climates, ineffective proactive
school safety actions in response to school violence, poor enriching
environments, less parental involvement and dissatisfaction with these type
of schools for accounting for most of the variance in school violence.
Students, in contrast, see predictor factors such as getting high and easy
availability of substances of abuse as more of a problem than actual
incidences of being attacked. On the other hand, supportive environments
such as positive school experience, parental involvement and a child's
friends' high aspirations are deterrents of school violence.
Research and studies have suggested a wide number of means for
intervention into this problem. In order to assist schools in developing
and carrying out violence prevention and response plans, the Departments of
Education and Justice and the American Institutes for Research developed a
report, Safeguarding Our Children: An Action Guide. The report indicates
that an effective school violence prevention plan must include three tiers.
1. Schools must develop a schoolwide foundation for all students that
consists of: enhancing constructive discipline, academic achievement and
mental and emotional health through a encouraging school environment;
teaching children on appropriate behaviors and problem-solving skills;
supportive behavioral improvement; and appropriate academic teaching with
interesting curricula and efficient teaching practices. 2. In addition, the
schools must early on identify those students who at risk for severe
academic or behavioral difficulties and create services and supports that
address and construct risk factors for them. Approximately 10 to 15 percent
of students display problem behaviors that indicate a need for such early
intervention. It is essential that teachers be trained to recognize the
early warning signs and make necessary referrals. Once the students are
identified, they must receive coordinated services that meet the individual
needs. Several approaches have been developed for interventions at this
point, including anger management training, structured after-school
programs, mentoring, individual, group and family counseling, adapting
instructional practices, and tutoring.
3. Schools must recognize and offer specific interventions for the students
who are experiencing considerable emotional and behavioral problems. This
involves providing coordinated, in-depth, long-term, culturally
appropriate, child-and family centered services and supports. Such
interventions may consist of day treatment programs
that give students and families intensive mental health and special
education services; multi-systemic mental care, emphasizing the child and
family, the peer context, schoolvocational performance, and
neighborhoodcommunity supports; or treatment in foster care, an intensive,
family- focused intervention for those students whose delinquency or
emotional problems are so severe and so chronic that they are no longer
permitted to live at home. To be effective, these approaches generally
require the collaboration of schools, social services, mental health
providers, and law enforcement and juvenile justice authorities.
Other researchers and organizations have also been looking at ways of
intervention. Incidents such as those at Columbine High School encouraged
the creation of safe school plans. Presently, in some school districts,
these plans are just sitting on the shelves and not being used. In more
progressive schools, students and staff wear ID badges, doors are locked,
security officers patrol the halls, staff is trained in security
procedures, visitors sign in after showing a picture ID, and a district
code of conduct regulates all interactions. However, it is recognized that
this is just a stop gap. Schools must create a sense of community with
increased student-teacher cooperation, and a common "conflict management
language" (Selfridge 2004, p.61). Policies that the schools adopt and the
steps that they take to…[continue]

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