Bullying Contributes To School Shootings, Report Says
By Tiffany Danitz, Staff Writer
Metal detectors, student profiles and police officers patrolling school hallways are less likely to prevent school shootings than anti-bullying programs like one conducted in Delaware, a study by the Secret Service and the US Department of Education (DOE) concludes.
In three fourths of the cases studied for the "Interim Report on the Prevention of Targeted Violence in Schools" (www.ed.gov/offices/oese/sdfs), student shooters reacted violently to being bullied by fellow students, researchers found.
This is not news to Delaware Attorney General M. Jane Brady. So many kids coming through the juvenile court system were angry or in fear because of bullying that she decided to do something. In 1997, she started a teacher training program that helps stem bullying. The program, developed by the University of Connecticut, uses real situations that led to court cases, and has students role play to discover ways to handle conflict.
In the study, researchers looked at 37 school shootings that have occurred since 1974. The incidents took place in 26 states, with more than one incident in Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee.
The researchers found that contrary to popular belief, student killers, like Kip Kinkel in Springfield, Oregon, and Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold the architects of the 99 mass murder at Columbine High School, don't lend themselves to police profiles because they don't share common traits.
The shooters varied in age. They did not have similar racial, ethnic or family backgrounds. Some took advanced placement courses and others were less than stellar students. Some were loners and others had many friends. Behavior and mental problems were not consistent and few of the student attackers never showed any change in behavior prior to their attacks, according to the report.
The common wisdom that school shooters just "snap" was found to be inaccurate. In fact, researchers found that in 75 percent of the cases students planned the attack ahead of time, and in virtually all cases they told a peer or sibling about their intention to kill. But those entrusted with the information only told an adult in two of the cases.
Preventing violence takes "listening to kids, developing better connections between kids and adults, and developing a culture within the school that allows kids to talk freely and openly about things that are bothering them," said Bill Modzeleski, one of the authors of the report and head of the DOE's Safe And Drug-Free Schools Program.
Modzeleski says the best thing lawmakers can do to combat school violence is to place less emphasize on hardware and more emphasis on empathy.
"This is not about metal detectors and cameras in the schools it is really about heartware. Clearly looking at these (school violence) cases makes you quickly understand that they are very complex and the resolution will take more than simple solutions, " Modzeleski said.