School Shootings: Lessons From the Past, and Are We Doomed to Repeat Them?

School Shootings: Lessons From the Past, and Are We Doomed to Repeat Them?

Patricia A. Goforth (Colorado State University – Global Campus, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6246-7.ch002

Abstract

In the late 1990s, a series of school shootings shocked the nation. Seemingly innocent children with little to no history of deviant behavior engaged in horrific acts of violence against their fellow students and teachers. The previously held beliefs that schools were safe had been shattered by these acts, and social scientists answered the call to find answers as to how and why these acts occurred. In this chapter, the authors discuss what is known about school shooters in terms of characteristics, behaviors, history, as well as the social dynamics of the communities in which they typically reside. While a profile of a school shooter has been deemed inaccurate, are we doomed to make the same mistakes by overlooking signals or warnings provided by shooters?
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Prior Preventative Measures

Policy debates focusing on school safety and prevention of school shootings dominated the attention of legislators following the shootings in the late 1990s. The result was a series of policies designed to protect students and provide increased safety measures at schools. Policies like intense surveillance measures of students on school campuses, zero tolerance policies (which, in essence, criminalized even the most minor infractions in an effort to prevent more serious crimes from occurring), and profiling among others, were implemented and simultaneously sharply criticized as being poorly placed, militarizing schools and criminalizing students (Lewis, 2003). Other critics condemned the implementation of such strict security measures and policies stating that schools were being turned into environments similar to prisons, disrupting educational opportunities of students and detracting from what should be a learning-based environment. The disparity with which school official’s implemented policies also came under intense scrutiny. Zero tolerance and other security measures were alleged to have been discriminatory in nature. Disparate treatment among students by school staff and law enforcement was alleged based largely on race but also on economic status (Nance, 2013; Verlinden, Hersen & Thomas, 2000; Trone, 1998).

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