Potential Causes of Mass School Shooting Incidents: A Look Into Bullying, Mental Illness, and Zero-Tolerance Policies

Potential Causes of Mass School Shooting Incidents: A Look Into Bullying, Mental Illness, and Zero-Tolerance Policies

Joseph R. Budd (Campbellsville University, USA), Jeffrey Herron (Campbellsville University, USA) and Renee Sartin (Campbellsville University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0113-9.ch010


Over the past several years, American educational institutions have seen an increase in gun violence by students. This increase has erupted calls for stricter gun control and larger gun-free zones at institutions of learning. There have been many theories to why American schools have become a place of fear instead of institutions of learning. Some explore the cause of mental illness; some investigate bullying, and a few acknowledge the lack of administrative follow-up on in-school incidents. This chapter will explore the relationships and correlations between the shooter, the victim(s), school zero-tolerance policy and how previous incidents of violence or threats of violence were/are processed in the school systems where these incidents have occurred.
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Violence in schools is a hot topic in America today. Many citizens believe that school violence (especially the use of weapons) is relatively new, dating back to the Columbine shootings. However, there have been documented cases of school violence for many years (Keehn & Boyles, 2015). We currently live in a society which tends to skew the actual impact of violence by how is often portrayed violence in television shows, movies and interactive video games (Leary, Kowalski, Smith and Phillips, 2003). In years past, violence was not permitted on television until after 9:00 PM (Mulvey & Cauffman, 2001). Presently, anyone can turn on the TV at any time of the day and view acts of violence, especially with the availability of online streaming services and the lack of parenteral supervision.

In contrast to the United States, citizens of Japan view as much violence as we do in the United States. However, Japan does not have a similar crime rate as the United States. Furthermore, in the United States, the nuclear family has diminished, and more single parents, and increasingly grandparents are raising children than previously. Thus, more unsupervised latch-key children are alone viewing these violent acts on television and in video games (Mulvey & Cauffman, 2001). Many will argue that the deterioration of cultural values has paved the way for the birth of violence to move into our schools and become the norm. However, this has yet to be proven across cultures.

In this chapter, the reader will explore several theoretical causes of school and mass shootings. Additionally, the aftereffects of bullying on an individual, the subculture, and societal norms that lead to violence, and mental illness issues will be covered. The response to which the schools, in general, have reacted to the violence and the implementation of zero-tolerance policies will be examined to determine effectiveness. Furthermore, the reader will discover what schools do to intercept and prevent bullying of students. Lastly, the internal appearance of many schools has changed over the years. Historically, metal detectors and law enforcement officers were rarely seen, but are now becoming the norm in all schools, not just the urban inner-city schools.

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