Mass School Shootings in America

Mass School Shootings in America

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"What caused these school shootings, I don't pretend to know, and I don't know that it's knowable."
- Robert A. Fein, forensic psychologist

In considering how I would respond to the provided prompt, I thought that it might be best to first take a look at what others had to say on the subject; what do other teens feel is the source of the rise in school violence, and how do the "experts" explain this disturbing trend?

In my quest to discover what other students had to say, I searched "school violence" on Planetpapers.com, a web site where students can post papers that they have written to be viewed by other students. Several students had submitted papers offering broad explanations of and proposed answers to our harrowing dilemma. One student "blamed" the sale of illegal drugs, claiming that students sold drugs in order to buy guns, and inevitably used these guns on others. In other words, her theory was less drugs equals less guns equals less violence. Another student argued that parents are responsible for the rise in school violence, as many school shooters find the guns they use in their shootings in their own homes. According to the student, if parents would responsibly care for their firearms, children would not have such easy access and thus school violence would no longer be a problem. A third student offered violence in video games as a possible cause for the rise in school violence. This student, however, gave no suggestion of how we might address school violence.

Drugs cause school violence! It's the parents' fault! Violent video games encourage children to act violently in their schools! I don't buy it. Overall I think I would have to agree with Robert A. Fein, a forensic psychologist with the Secret Service, who admits, "What caused these school shootings, I don't pretend to know, and I don't know that it's knowable." The truth is that until we have the ability to reach into the minds of these young killers and monitor their every thought we will never know what it is that prompts them to resort violence, and even then we might never understand it. What I believe to be important is that we don't point fingers. Let us say that we all agree that it is the media's "fault," that real-world violence is undoubtedly connected with violence in the media.

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Great. So what? The government is not about to censor pop culture, a huge commercial enterprise. And, more importantly, Americans are not about to stop buying it. So, you ask, "What can we do to prevent further shootings, then?"

In wake of the growing trend of school shootings, the Secret Service has spent the last year studying these terrifying events. In the study of 41 children involved in 37 shootings the Secret Service found that there was one thing to be sure of, there is no profile for the "typical child killer." The children studied came from all different walks of life, held different interests, and participated in school on different levels. There was, however, one aspect in which these child killers did not differ. Secret Service members found that these children do not simply "snap," as once thought. They take their time; they plan, and talk about it. Though I don't feel that pointing our fingers at all the possible "causes" of school violence will in any way prevent further incidents from occurring, I do not believe that all hope is not lost. There is one way that we can help.

Luke Woodham, who killed his mother and two students at his high school in Pearl, Mississippi, offered some advice to those seeking an answer to school violence. Woodham admitted that no adult had been knowledgeable of the hate he held within him. He claimed that had any adult ever taken the time to sit down and talk with him, they would have eventually learned what he was thinking and what he was capable of. His advice? "I think they [teachers] should try to bond more with their students… Talk to them… It doesn't have to be about anything. Just have some kind of a relationship with them."

We must talk to our children. As we can't guarantee that this will happen in the home, the responsibility lies on the shoulders of school officials. You might say, "But that's not their job. Teachers and administrators are simply there to educate." The truth of the matter is, we are in this together. In order to solve the problem, some of us will have to step out of our comfortable little box that is our "job," our "world," from time to time. I join Robert Fein in his admittance that he doesn't know what causes these shootings. I do, however, believe that there is something to be done. If we listen, we will hear.
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