DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Schools are becoming to be known a dangerous place at the end of the twentieth century. Children as young as twelve and thirteen came to school not to study but to shoot as many people as possible. Although violence in schools is nothing new, multiple shootings in school violence has become. School shootings can happen at any school at any time. Lack of security is only a small part of the problem. The major issue lies in the low morality of students and warning signs overlooked by administration and/or staff. It is said to be that most of the school shooters are victims themselves, and shooting their fellow students was a last resort. They feel as if no one is listening and this is their only way of getting their voice heard. Bullying is the real problem in our nation's schools, according to the National School Safety Center. One out of every four school children has become a victim of taunting, teasing, etc. There is definitely a problem with school violence today. The last three years have shown us that violence in our schools society is more common today then ever before. There have been several school shootings in the last few years, and the number of school shootings seems to be growing rapidly these days. School violence is a big issue, and the problem seems to be getting worse every year with the number of school shootings reported and that goes unreported (media).

This paper will examine the school shootings in the Unites States. Will also be focusing on school rampage shootings, focusing on the time from 1990s to the present. School rampage shootings are said to be different from other forms of violence because of the fairly safe countryside surroundings in which most of these events occur. While this type of violence seems to have rose in the mid-1990s, school violence in general and school shootings in particular have taken place. A study shows that certain fundamentals of school rampage shootings are unique, while others do not separate them from more common forms of violence. The purpose of this paper is to review research on school shootings in America. This paper will talk about the history of school violence, and theory and developments that have arisen in recent years in reaction to school shootings.

Since the mid-1990s, Americans have come to see schools as places of possible violence. The media reaction to these events; school shootings meant to show that America is suffering from an epidemic of school violence and that schools were no longer safe environment for children. Violent school event have apparently grown in the last 20 years into a different and more deadly form. From the mid-1990s to the present, a handful number of school shootings occurred in which students carried deadly weapons to school and opened fire on fellow students or faculty members. Since 1996, nearly 60 school shootings have taken place in American schools, resulting in hundreds of deaths. One of the first recorded school shootings happened as early as 1956, when Billy Ray Prevatte brought a .22 caliber rifle to Maryland Park Junior High and shot three teachers. Two other attacks took place in 1966, one at the University of Texas and the other at Grand Rapids High School in Minnesota. In the 1970s, various school shootings happened. In 1974, Anthony Barbaro murdered three people at his high school in New York. In 1979 just outside of San Diego, Brenda Spencer opened fire on people standing outside an elementary school in the late 1980s, school deaths increased, occurring mostly in urban schools and involving individual argument with single victims. According to the most recently available statistics, only 24 homicides occurred at school in the 2008–2009 school year at elementary, middle and high schools (Robers, Zhang, Truman, & Snyder, 2010).

While school shootings and homicides have remained constant over the last 20 years (Dinkes et al., 2009), some report that school rampage shootings increased significantly in the last decade of the 20th century (Newman et al., 2004). Since the 1990s, there has been a slump in rampage shootings. However, in recent years there have been multiple incidents of students carrying guns to school with the intention of committing mass murder. In the few weeks after a 2001 California school shooting, 16 students across the state were “in custody” for making threats or carrying weapons to school (CNN, 2001).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC), 7.4% of high school students in 2011 reported they were being threatened or harmed with a weapon on school grounds. The National Center for Education Statistics that between 1992 and 2009, there were have been between 14 and 34 homicides among children from the ages of 5 to 18 at school each year. The CDC states “Approximately 1% of all youth homicides in 2008-2009 occurred at school, and the percentage of all youth homicides occurring at school has been less than 2% since the 1992-1993 school year. In addition, the CDC notes that 5.4% of students were carrying a weapon gun or knife to school more than just one day. Many schools have put strategies to play to eliminate or lessen the damage and loss of life in possible future school attacks/rampages. 58% of suburban schools perform safety drills according to a specified plan, compared with 49% of urban schools and 48% of rural schools.

While college campuses are fairly safe places, a single gunman shattered the pledge of safety and security on campus on April 16, 2007. Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at Virginia Tech, shot 49 students and faculty, killing 32, before killing himself. The attacker important mental instability and previous contact with mental health professionals are critical to understanding how he was able to carry out his murderous rage. The irony is that some of the anticipated gun control measures that it would have been useless for preventing either Columbine or the Virginia Tech. It would instead be perfectly reasonable for preventing ordinary gun violence. 

Gary Keck, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Florida State University argues that it would be a perfectly reasonable, for the purpose of reducing ordinary gun violence, to extend background checks on gun purchasers.  This proposed gun plan could and would prevent casually motivated gun purchase by convicted criminals and other high-risk persons who are less powerfully motivated than mass killers to get guns regardless of the stipulations. Gun control wouldn’t have prevented tragedies like the one in Connecticut, and this is probably true. However it would lessen the likelihood of a lot of other potential school shootings, much of the smaller tragedies/events that receive less publicity, but still cause enormous pain within the community of it.

Though acts of targeted violence in schools aren’t as common, the fear they bring to the public, cause serious public concern and attention. School entrances are turning into security check points and students live in fear by the thought that deadly violence could happen within the halls and classrooms of their school, by a fellow classmate or classmates. Targeted violence in U.S. schools can be considered an act of domestic terrorism. Miller (2002) described terrorism “as old as civilization and has existed since people discovered that they could intimidate the many by targeting the few.” This description can be applied to the Columbine shootings. The shooters of Columbine, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, shown in their homemade videos that they wanted to deliver revenge to those who hurt them and exact revenge for all who have endured the same treatment that they have (Gibbs, Roche, Goldstein, Harrington, & Woodbury,1999). Students most of the times are the ones going to suffer the worst from targeted school shootings. This includes the shooters themselves as they are often tormented and bullied before committing the act of shooting up the school, and also who can also become a victim of their own violence by committing suicide. Students who witness and survive the horror of a school shooting can have lifelong and damaging physical, emotional, and mental injuries. Rehabilitation from injuries can take months or years. Permanent physical scars will be reminders of the horrors faced on that horrible day. The fortunate individuals who escaped the attack without physical harm can suffer from many psychological problems. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), along with depression and anxiety problems are just the beginning and most common. Just months after the tragedy at Columbine, students was having issues performing fire drills, and more students were seeing counselors. (Gibbs et aI., 1999).  

Students thinking of committing murder inside school walls at times blend into the background and display behaviors common to their friends. Once a student is noticed as having issues, a prevention plan can be put in place. Identifying a potentially violent student who has reached a breaking point can be an important key to preventing events like Columbine. Mulvey and Cauffman (2001) stated, “it is not often clear exactly what to look for, who should have looked for it, or what should have been done if someone had seen something.” In the following paragraph, I’m going to discuss of one the most common high school shooting, behavior of the shooters, and summary of their story.

Luke Wood ham was 16 years old when he took the lives of his mother; he killed with a knife and baseball bat while she lay in bed, and two students on October 1, 1997. Along with the three dead, including the two students killed at Pearl High School in Pearl, Mississippi, the teenager wounded seven more. Luke weapon used was a hunting rifle (Kidd & Meyer, 2002; Moffatt, 2000).

On December 1, 1997, Michael Carneal, a 14-year-old Caucasian male, shot and killed three students and wounded five at Heath High School in West Pudacah, Kentucky. Carneal targeted a prayer group that morning before classes. While Carneal brought a total of 5 guns to school, he opened fire on the group of students with a .22 pistol (Kidd & Meyer, 2002; Moffatt, 2000).

Fourteen-year-old Mitchell Johnson and 11 year old Andrew Golden, both white males from Jonesboro, Arkansas, pulled a fire alarm at West Side Middle School on March 24, 1998, to bring students and staff outside while they sniped from a good view in the woods about a football field length away. The boys left four students dead and also killed one teacher, who was protecting a student from the ambush. (Kidd & Meyer, 2002; Moffatt, 2000).

Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon had two students dead and 25 injured. On the morning of May 21, 1998, Kipland Kinkel, who was 15 at the time of the crime, unleashed fifty rounds of .22 caliber ammunition into a cafeteria of four hundred students. Kinkel shot and killed both of his parents the night before (Kidd & Meyer, 2000).

Two white teenagers from Littleton, Colorado, committed the largest mass murder in United States history up to date of that time period within the walls of their school. Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, They came into Columbine High School with bullets and homemade bombs on April 20, 1999, killing twelve students, one teacher, and leaving 23 wounded, before they took their own lives (Kidd & Meyer, 2002; Moffatt, 2000).

The Red Lake High School in Red Lake, Minnesota, was rocked by violence on March 21,2005. Jeff Weise, a 16 year old Native American and resident of the Red Lake Reservation for 5 years, took the lives of his grandfather and female companion, stole his grandfather's .40 caliber handgun, 12 gauge shotgun, bullet proof vest, along with his grandfather's police vehicle and drove to Red Lake High School. Their Jeff shot and killed an unarmed security guard, a teacher, and five classmates. After reportedly trading gunfire with police near the end of his 10-minute rampage, Jeff took his own life (Gregory, 2005; Haga, 2005; Hanners, 2005; Harden & Hedgpeth, 2005).

The majority of these school-shooting shooters showed an average or above average ability in academics. Bender, Shubert, and McLaughlin (2001). Majority of the shooters were underachievers but showed their cognitive ability by the planning that went into their attacks. The best example of this is the plans that the Columbine shooters had before the attacks. Investigators of the Columbine shooting found journals, day planners, maps, diagrams, hit lists, and even a budget that Harris and Klebold accumulated while planning their attack (Vaughan, Kass, & Able, 2006). The attention to detail of their plans showed intellectual ability at its finest. Weise had also made detailed plans. During the investigation after the shooting, officials discovered a map in Weise's bedroom and recovered emails and text messages that detailed the plot. According to the evidence found, it seemed as though Weise wanted to plan his attack when the school was most crowded and station co-conspirators at the schools exits and hallways to achieve a high body count (Rosario, 2006). Just two days after the shooting at Red Lake, an FBI agent told reporters that the incident looked like it was planned for sometime (Haga, Padilla, and Meryhew, 2005). The shootings in Pearl, West Pudacah, Jonesboro, and Springfield also had planning but not to the level of Columbine and Red Lake. “There is nothing spontaneous about a rampage school shooting” Newman (2005).

Researchers point out that access to firearms was a predictor in the majority of the school shooting cases. Kidd and Meyer (2002) noted that out of the seven incidents reviewed, three had the characteristic of the murder weapons being owned by a family member. Firearms may be viewed as an easy way to gain respect by youth. Youth may use the company of guns as a way to gain respect and when that respect is not gained, they may turn to violence to gain that respect through homicide (Kidd & Meyer, 2002). Klebold and Harris of the Columbine shootings had access to their weapons through friends and acquaintances (Gibbs 1999). The shooters used two types of guns in their assault. One of the shooters carried an assault weapon, TEC-9 pistol, which was purchased from an individual for $500. Dylan Klebold’s adult girlfriend, who could legally purchase such firearms, obtained three other rifles. Troubled youth sometimes walks a fine line between being in control of him or erupting into a rant. A single event might be the predecessor to persuade a flare-up of such behavior. Kidd and Meyer (2002) say that an “experience of loss or supposed failure may have been a breaking point for adolescents who were already experiencing significant emotional distress caused by other rejections or failures, lack of social support and inadequate coping skills.” Examples such as divorce, school suspension, and a break up with a girlfriend.

Researchers have also noted an obsession with violence with school shooters. This can include violent movies, video games, music, and books. Seven out of eight offenders investigated by Kidd and Meyer (2002) showed an obsession with violent media. This obsession can also show up in the creative work of students like Poems, stories, homemade movies, and drawings of a violent nature have been a significant factor of several school shooting perpetrators. Kidd and Meyer (2002) reported that six out of eight school shooters wrote about death and murder in coursework or in private entries. There appears to be regularity in the type of relationships that school shooters have within the school walls. Most appear to be alienated, bullied, or rejected. In a study done by Anderson et aI. (2001), there is strong evidence to suggest that there is a link between bullying, victimization, and aggressive behavior. Kidd and Meyer (2002) found that six out of the eight shooters investigated had a feeling of rejection by their peers. Most of them do not have family close connections.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2000) states that cruelty to animals by children or adolescents fits the criteria for such disorders. This is important in this study as Luke Woodham, Michael Carneal, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Andrew Golden, and Kipland Kinkel all glorified some type of animal torture or killings. Of the six shooting events and 8 total shooters, all were male. The age range spanned from eleven to eighteen, seven out of eight shooters as teenagers. Academic performance ranged from failure to high achievement. Seven out of eight shooters performed in the average or above range. As noted, school performance does not necessarily reflect intellectual ability. The shooters access to fire arms is the most inconsistent. Out of the six shooting episodes, two used stolen weapons, two owned the weapons, and one bought the weapons through friends or acquaintances. Five out of the eight school shooters had some type of tragic event that might have triggered to their shooting spree. Three out of the eight shooters had a break up with a significant other near the time of their shootings. Out of the six incidents, all made threats of violence leading up to the shooting. The threats range from unclear to specific, but all suggested violence inside the school walls.  All of the shooters studied displayed an obsession or addiction with violence. Playing of violent video games, violence themed school assignments or personal writings, bragging about violent acts to classmates, and violence themed music was just some of characteristics showed of these school shooters. The shooters' relationships with their friends ranged from being popular in the school, to, being an outcast or a loner. Four out of the eight shooters showed strong evidence that they were bullied by their friends, while three out of the eight showed evidence that they may have been the bully in cases of bullying other students. In regards to the shooters relationships with adults outside of the family, five out the eight perpetrators showed evidence of no significant relationships.

Besides having locked school entrances, metal detectors, and armed guards at schools entrances, school administrators and school personnel can apply inner and low profile actions to improve the safety of their students from targeted violence inside the school walls. School staffs and administrators need to understand the importance of the safety of their students and the resources available to them from their own school personnel, particularly the school counselor. Administrators and staff of schools also need to understand that there is no simple answer to prevent such targeted violence in their schools. Brunner and Lewis (2006) suggest that school districts “should establish a definition of what constitutes a serious threat of violence.”

High school shootings have been occurring all over the country. All of these school incidents are leading to one or more deaths. Many people think that it will never happen to them, but it could. After a school shooting occurs it may seem like everything is different, and has changed. This is the reason why many students are afraid to go to school and is so concerned about their safety. Many of these schools shooting are happening in suburban areas where many people think it is safe but while the school districts are focusing on keeping the violates out of city schools they forgot about the rest.


DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.