Most students at college campuses are worried about exams, homework, social relationships, family, and financial responsibilities. School shootings and school violence are not at the top of the list of concerns for these same individuals. Looking back nine years ago this was also not of concern for the students at the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University that April morning. No one is prepared for tragic events and no one is ever expecting them to happen. They happen in a blink of an eye and leave those affected in shock and in disbelief.
Unfortunate circumstances and events raises awareness to the public, researchers, and in this tragic case, students. On April 16, 2007 in Blacksburg, Virginia the state and the nation grieved and endured a tragic event in U. S history. The students form Virginia Tech were victims of a school shooting. Thirty-two victims were shot and killed by perpetrator, Seung-Hui Cho who committed suicide as police were closing in on him. The shootings happened in two different attacks, the first attack took place in West Ambler Johnston, one of the residence halls at Virginia Tech.
Police reported the incident right around seven in the morning where Cho shot and killed his first two victims. The Noris Hall, a campus building became the second target where the most and the last shootings took place. There he shot and killed 32 victims, the last bullet he shot was on himself committing suicide. It is speculated that the second attack happened two hours after the first shootings at the residence hall. School Violence is an important topic to discuss.
Many researchers, education professionals, and the media define and associate school violence to school shootings, deaths and injuries, perceptions of disorder by students, teachers and administrators. (Welsh, 2001). According to research studies mass killings at college campuses are events that are very rare. Violence does exist in college campuses but they are in different forms such as date rape, bulling, and hazing. (Heilbrun, 2009) However, it is important to remember and consider the importance of school safety and violence prevention programs. School shootings have existed both nationally and internationally.
In the United States there has been several memorable attacks, for example, Columbine High School shooting where two seniors, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered twelve students and one teacher. Most recent, Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting where Adam Lanza shot and killed several children and staff members. Attacks on schools is an international crime as well. In Scotland sixteen children and one teacher were killed at a primary school by Thomas Hamilton, who then killed himself. In Yemen eight people (six students and two others) at two schools were killed by Mohammad Ahman al-Naziri.
These are just a few examples of the wide international range of school shootings to name a few. A notable trend that Langman (2013) discusses in his research study is that the perpetrators who commit these rampage shootings do not have or fit a specific profile however his research suggests that the perpetrators fall into three different categories of shooters, which include psychopathic, psychotic, and traumatized as a way of explaining why they commit those violent crimes. Langman (2013) defines psychopathic shooters as narcissistic, lack of empathy and guilt.
Psychotic shooters are described as having eccentric behavior, significant social and emotional impairment, and often experience high levels of anxiety and depression. Lastly, Traumatized shooters have histories of physical emotional and/or sexual abuse. In my personal opinion even though the characteristics of those categories are fitting to the common rampage shooter, I believe there is more to them that causes the individual to commit those violent crimes. For example, there has been research studies that have found a relationship between low resting heart rate and antisocial behavior.
This could be another factor that can have an impact on an individual and not just environmental factors. Comparing the school shooters mentioned earlier (Seung-Hui Cho, Adam Lanza, Eric Harris, and Dylan Klebold) there is a similar trend that has developed throughout the years. One similar trend that was easy to point out while studying some of these cases was that most of the perpetrators committed suicide during attacks, after attacks, and during police interventions. Langman (2013) studied thirty-five shooters of the thirty-five, twenty-one (60%) were suicidal at the time of their attacks.
Of these twenty-one suicidal shooters, seventeen killed themselves. In total 49% of the shooters in his sample committed suicide. This suggest that most school shooters are already suicidal at the time of their attacks. It helps us understand why they commit suicide after attacking but does not necessarily explains why they attacked in the first place. As human beings we are inclined to identify what causes something to happen especially when that something has had a huge impact in society as a whole such that of a school shooting. There are several theoretical explanations to why school violence is reported today more frequently than before.
According to institutional explanations of school disorder, school climate is an explanation to the causes of school violence. The climate of a school includes the unwritten beliefs, values, and attitudes that become the style of interaction between students, teachers, and administrators. School climate sets the parameters of acceptable behavior among all school actors, and it assigns individual and institutional responsibility for school safety. School climates includes factors such as communication patterns and norms about what constitutes appropriate behavior (Welsh W. , 2000).
School with violence problems tend to have unclear and unfair rules that are inconsistently enforced and schools where students perceive greater fairness and clarity of the rules have less violence and student victimization. In my opinion this means that a school who has better communication and understanding of the school rules and behaviors are less likely to experience victimization. I believe this to be true to an extent but I also believe there could be more than just the school setting that causes violence. Institutional explanations are not the only explanations that try to explain why violence occur amongst school settings.
For example, community and multi-level theories also try to explain school disorder and violence. The assumption is that communities may have their own effect on levels of victimization. Poverty, levels of crime, and unemployment in and around the neighborhood or community may all have an indirect effect on school violence. America’s schools are so highly segregated by income, race, and ethnicity, problems related to poverty occur simultaneously, with greater frequency, and act cumulatively in schools serving disadvantaged communities.
These schools therefore face significantly greater challenges than schools serving wealthier children, and their limited resources are often overwhelmed. (Berliner, 2009). Between the two theoretical explanations of school violence, I believe that communities and neighborhoods theories have a greater validity from my perspective. Just thinking about the disadvantages that students grow up with and also live in poverty has to have some effect on these individuals not only physically but also psychological. It is very typical that children who live in poverty also have family issues at home that can also be impacting their social behavior.
If the child is learning the aggressive behavior at home it is very likely that he or she will exhibit that behavior at school. Research helps create useful intervention efforts and prevention efforts to minimize and prevent school violence throughout schools all over the nation. Intervention programs can be composed of individual based or school wide based programs to help mitigate or minimize the problem. These intervention programs help intervene in the school setting to help control the school violence problems. There are three examples of prevention programs, conflict resolution, peer mediation and school organization and climate change.
School administrators face significant challenges in their efforts to establish and maintain safe and positive environments that allow all teachers to teach and all students to learn. Clearly, prevention based approaches to school-wide discipline and the management of students with severe problem behavior are preferred because of their potential to reduce the development of new cases of problem behavior (incidence) and the number of current cases of problem behavior (prevalence). A well-functioning school-wide system improves the efficiency and effectiveness with which classroom and individual behavior support systems function.
When behavioral difficulties are dangerous or harmful to others or property, the first reaction is a call for dramatic school reforms that include installation of metal detectors, hiring security guards, conducting random drug tests, and instituting school uniform policies. Because of the tragic nature of recent violent school acts, these kinds of reactions are predictable and understandable. The immediate and natural response is to remove the source of the discomfort and to use structural modifications to prevent similar acts from recurring (Sugai, 2000).
An example of a school organization and climate strategies program is Project PATHE (Positive Action Through Holistic Education). The program contains six main components involving students, teachers and the community. The PATHE program produced favorable outcomes, the schools reported less delinquency, less drug involvement, and fewer suspensions and other punishments. One example of an early prevention approach is the biosocial approach. An interesting preventative method that has come to light in the recent years is the biosocial approach.
For example, poor nutrition during early childhood increases antisocial behaviors at schools and homes during the elementary school years, even after accounting for genes and shared familial risks among siblings. (Jackson, 2016) The way that I understand this is that nutrition plays an important role in the early development of young children. This approach gives a different perspective of the different ways we can prevent crime before it even becomes issue. Who would have known that simple healthy nutrition plan could prevent antisocial behavior?
School violence can come in many forms, assaults, bulling, and school shootings are just a few of the many examples. Violence can start at an early age and develop throughout the years. The key assumption is detecting, preventing and finding resources and methods to help for those at risks. Research will continue to suggest new causes and explanations to why school violence has become a topic of concern and study those perpetrators life course offending. We should keep in open mind about the different ways that violence in school can be explained like the biosocial approach.