Thursday, November 7, 2013

MASC 13: Is it possible to prevent serious school violence?

Jack Levin, from Northeastern University
people wanting to feel powerful, because they feel a profound sense of powerlessness

"the sad truth is that [Manson being the most famous person in history] it's not far from the truth"
amazing that people still know who he is
"wanted to be important, wanted to set a record"
:"I think we underestimate this motive that is shared by violent be in control, to be important, to be in charge of something...excessive need for power and control and dominance"
associated with revenge
playing God: maximizing pain and suffering, deciding who lives and dies, terrorizing a community, taunting the police, becoming a celebrity
becoming a celebrity through the barrel of a gun
"they want to go down in infamy, and we give them what they want"
24 hour news cycle, excessive media attention (beyond reporting the crimes)
shootings in an elementary are very unusual: "we haven't seen a rampage at an elementary since 1989...Cleveland Elementary in Stockton, CA"
National dialogue about Sandy Hook for six months: talked about limiting assault weapons, expanding background checks, increasing mental health services, limiting large capacity weapons
"And what did we do about it? NOTHING!"
"we treat every crisis as though it were representative of all high-profile crisis"
most school shootings are in middle and high school, and increasingly in colleges
most often students targeting classmates and schoolmates, rarely an outsider; rarely done with assault weapons
we have a level of violence that is now down around the 'Leave It to Beaver' era...and most of the violence is now handguns
making celebrities out of violent criminals
run through here of making celebrities out of violent criminals: movies, TV shows, etc
cover stories about violent criminals
"he's newsworthy, so put him on Time or Newsweek, but not the cover of an entertainment magazine"
"we send a message to our young's very simple"
"putting them in place of where we used to put people who have virtuous accomplishments"
Why do school shootings seem to cluster?
Copycat phenomenon feeds on national attention
dropping line of school related homicides have been dropping since the 1990's:
peak of multiple victim homicides in late 1990's, due to national attention, copycat
potential shooter will be inspired by someone hundreds or thousands of miles away due to media flurry
role models of violence
largest number of mass murders is in families, then in workplaces
then schools, fewer than 20% in public places


contributory factors:
  • frustration and depression
  • externalization of blame
  • isolation from conventional influences
  • catastrophic loss
  • access to and training in the effective use of a weapon
suicidal rampage: "murder by proxy": killing stand-ins for the real targets
students who are bullied at another age; going after those who they can reach now
transition times: April, May, as school is about to end
most school rampage killers use semi-automatics, most have large capacity magazines; parents often are the owners of the guns
While we lead the world in gun homicides, we also lead in non-gun homicides
"it's true that a knife is not as lethal as a gun...but it's fairly effective"

typical school rampage:
  • high schools and middle schools
  • usually a student who goes to school there
  • single killer
  • makes revealing remarks that are not reported (nearly always tells somebody, who doesn't believe it)
  • chronically bullied and humiliated as well as family conflict
  • suffers catastrophic loss
  • weapon is usually taken from home
concealed guns deterring violence: could instead encourage youngsters who want to have a gunfight
plenty of cases that those with concealed weapons not reducing body count (also see those at military facilities, where the killers kill those with weapons and then use their weapons)
very difficult to distinguish who is those with weapons initially
in favor of school resource officers: "I'm talking about a competent resource officer, of course"
breaking the code of silence and educating students about bullying
schools in Massachusetts where violence was averted: Why?
biggest response? Limit the culture of silence

Limitations to consider:
  • size of school
  • excessive police presence makes school feel unsafe
  • impossible to make school invulnerable (even metal detectors)
  • school does not have to be entered; can target those outside
"There are children everywhere. Do we want to have a police state?"
"The more random an attack, the more indiscriminate, the more likely it is that he's insane" (Clinically)
Warning signs: making the distinction between trouble versus troublesome
"if you wait until someone has murderous intentions, you've waited too long."
intervene when someone is troubled "not to punish him, but to make his life better"
animal abuse up close and personal and to maximize suffering: that's a red flag
"That is a key predictor, and there aren't many of them"

To prevent:
  1. reduce excessive and positive attention
  2. establish effective anti-bullying programs
  3. end culture of silence
  4. get in touch with students who are troubled and alone.
Keep it in perspective:
School hours continue to be the safest hours of the day for our children.
prime teenage crime is after school, before parents come home (as is teen pregnancy)
school rampage shootings are extremely rare
prediction is often impossible
homicides are down nearly to the same level as the 1950's
homicides in schools is down
juvenile violence in general is down as well
percentage of students who carry weapons to school is down

those who deal with the public are most in danger of violent assaults, including teaching
Can't expect schools to do everything: parents have a role, mass media does as well. Cyberbullying is an issue. Violence is also part of American culture.

Note as well: we are NOT having an epidemic
"you are more likely to die by contracting leprosy or malaria or be killed by a deer crossing the path of your car on the highway" than you are by being killed in a school shooting

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