Situation On February 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz massacred 17 students of Stoneman Douglas High School.
Since then, politicians, grieving mothers and fathers, and average citizens are at odds with one another over what should be done to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again. In today's world of perceived division, animosity, and public policy debate, it seems now more than ever that school shootings are a hot button issue.
In 2018, websites and organizations with political agendas argue that anywhere from 15 to 18 school shootings have happened in the U.S. while those with opposing beliefs say that those incidents have been exaggerated or isolated incidents either near or off a school campus. Since the shooting at the University of Texas (1966) to the Columbine (1999) shooting to most recently the Stoneman Douglas (2018) school shooting, acts of violence are becoming more and more common.
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School shootings perpetrated by youth (16-25) are a concern and researchers have investigated what causes individuals to perform such actions. Years of research, investigating, autopsies, and psychological evaluations can be, to a degree narrowed down into two causes of school shootings; Individual factors affecting troubled youth and social/cultural influences.
While many would argue that there is no definitive cause of school shootings, it seems that most suspects involved experienced some sort of contribution at the psychological or communal level.
The researchers who have data to back their argument are hopefully going to be instrumental as to determine a cure or implement preventative measures to make sure a school shooting can either never happen again or reduce the number of incidents/casualties.
Researchers: Argument of Individual Factors Affecting Troubled YouthThe consensus among most researchers is that the suspect suffers from mental health issues.
Dr. McGee and Dr. DeBernardo, both forensic examiners, believe that "school shooters" can usually fit a common criteria due to their research of adolescents responsible for school shootings from 1993 to 1998. Both agree that through their research, the "shooter" is a "normal" adolescent coming from a middle class, white neighborhood of around 50,000 people.
They have a somewhat high IQ and come from a type of broken home (divorce, separation, etc.). It isn't until that they investigated what the child was experiencing pre-incident that caused concern. The adolescent will experience low self-esteem, disconnect from their peers, and some sort of psychological stressor.
These stressors/factors all culminate into "triggering" the suspect into them believing that the only way to respond to recent trauma is to enact violence on whoever they believe is the cause for such conflict. In the case of Charles Whitman who was the perpetrator of the University of Texas massacre, he murdered the ones closest to him, his wife and mother for debatable reasons while Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold took revenge on their entire school.
Glenn W. Muschert, author of "Research in School Shootings" examines the multitudes of contributing factors of school shootings and states "A variety of causes may contribute to school shootings … even if direct causality may not be established." (Muschert, 67) While he believes that there is no definitive cause, mental health is the primary point of argumentation.
Continuing with the trend of individual factors affecting troubled youth, another pivotal cause that researchers can identify besides mental health problems is peer humiliation/bullying. Mr. Kimmel and Mr. Mahler, authors and contributors to "Adolescent Masculinity, Homophobia, and Violence" examine the societal impacts of possible school shooters at the peer level, stating "In conducting our analysis … because they were different from the other boys—shy, bookish, honor students, artistic, musical, theatrical, nonathletic, "geekish," or weird." (Kimmel Mahler, 1445)
Contrary to mental health, the argument of these authors is that the influence doesn't happen personally from psychological issues but those around them. In their research, most school shooters are suburban caucasian males in suburban neighborhoods and the influence is from students use of derogatory, homophobic slurs to ridicule these kids and repress their individualistic qualities.
Eventually this contributes to the triggers discussed with mental health and the peer humiliation/identity becomes the cause. Another quote from a researcher contributing to the argument that bullying creates school shooters states "Is there something disturbing about the fact that children expect that their schools will have high levels of gay bashing, slut bashing, violence against girls, racism, and violence against those who are less able or otherwise "different"?" (Klein,233) Jessie Klein believes through experimentation, statistics and testimonials from victims of bullying, this hurts the individual in such a way that the only recourse is through violence in the form of school shootings.
Argument: Social, Media, External Influences Lead to School ShootingsWhile the argument from a multitude of researchers and scholars that mental health and bullying are the preliminary factors that cause school shootings, other researchers examining the same topic have come upon the hypothesis that external factors are to blame.
The first would be the media's coverage of school shooters upon apprehension. The national news and tv coverage gives the belief that those who commit school shootings are regarded as celebrities within the nation's spotlight on them. Since the Columbine Shooting the news provides national news to inform America about what is currently happening but students who are currently experiencing a rough patch of bullying, declining mental health, and other things see this as an opportunity to gain the attention of all who are drawn to national disaster.
Video games are believed by many to glorify and give possible shooters a platform to commit such an act without consequence leading to the belief that violence in schools is the next step. McGee, J. P., ; DeBernardo, C. R. The classroom avenger: A behavioral profile of school based shootings.
The Forensic Examiner, (1999). 8(5-6), 16-18. (2018)Muschert, G.W., Research in School Shootings. (2007) vol. 1, issue.1, 60-80Kimmel, M. S.; Mahler, M. Adolescent Masculinity, Homophobia, and Violence. (2003)k vol. 46, issue. 10, 1439-1458Klein, J., The Bully Society: School Shootings and the Crisis of Bullying in America's Schools. NYU Press. (2012)
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