Shooting in schools is a major concern to parents, students, the government, and teachers. In the last three years, over 40 shooting cases were reported in high schools in the US (CDC). The shootings resulted into loss of several lives and unnecessary injuries. The government and school administrators have not been able to prevent shooting in schools due to the difficulty in identifying students who are likely to engage in violent behaviors. This paper will discuss the trends, causes, and effects of shooting in schools. It will also provide recommendations that can be adopted to prevent shooting in schools.
Trends and Definition of Shooting in Schools
Shooting in school refers to “the intentional killing of at least three victims apart from the perpetrator in a single incident by an individual under the age of 19 years” (Muschert and Sumiala 13). This definition indicates that shooting in school involves mass murder of students and other targets such as teachers. Generally, an incident is considered a school shooting if it has the following characteristics. First, the incident has to occur within a school or during a school event such as a sports activity. Second, the perpetrator has to be a “student or former student of the school in which the shooting occurs” (Boeckler and Sitzer 24). Third, the shooter is expected to have numerous targets. Finally, the victims of the shooter are selected randomly or based on their significance in the school.
In 2011, at least 7.4% of students in high schools were threatened or harmed with a gun within school compounds (CDC). Nearly 5.4% of students carry guns, which they use to threaten or harm others on school grounds. Research indicates that male students are the main perpetrators of school shooting (Boeckler and Sitzer 37). Most school shootings are often planned in advance. Moreover, the perpetrator’s main objective is to kill his or her targets.
Causes of Shooting in Schools
The main factors that influence shooting in schools include the following. First, bullying leads to the use of guns in schools (Georgie, Strachila and McMahon 1-15). Students who are bullied usually feel helpless, especially, if the school administrators cannot assist them. As a result, they develop mental disorders that motivate them to resort to violence as a method of protecting themselves against bullies. Students who are physically abused at home are also likely to use violence in schools. Specifically, they are likely to shoot their colleagues to fulfill their desire for vengeance.
Second, the culture of violence in the US promotes the use of guns among students (Langman 79-86). Students are often exposed to violence through the media. For instance, movies and video games in which guns are extensively used in violent attacks are easily available to students in virtually every household. Students who watch movies that promote violence are likely to be interested in using guns (Muschert and Sumiala 63).
As a result, they are likely to shoot their colleagues when provoked. Some students are exposed to violence in their families due to frequent fights between their parents. Prolonged exposure to violence promotes aggressive behaviors among students. This is likely to happen if students believe that disputes can be settled through violence. Students who have internalized the culture of violence believe that carrying guns to their schools is a normal way of life. Thus, they are likely to shoot their colleagues without considering the consequences of their actions.
Third, shooting in schools is promoted by availability of guns. Most states in the US allow their residents to carry concealed guns for self-defense. As a result, several households have guns. However, some parents fail to store their guns in safe places in their homes (Boeckler and Sitzer 46). This enables young assassins to access guns, which they use to attack their victims in schools.
Finally, violent fantasies among adolescents who are desperate for recognition normally lead to shooting in schools. Adolescent shooters are inspired by their peers who have engaged in gun violence successfully. The violent fantasies deepen with time as the assassin’s perspective on justice and morality becomes distorted (Georgie, Strachila and McMahon 1-15). This leads to acceptance of violent solutions such as shooting others as a technique of gaining recognition or settling disputes.
Effects of Shooting in Schools
Shooting in school has severe effects on students, parents, and the community. To begin with, the survivors of a shooting incident normally experience trauma. This can have long-term effects on young students’ ability to learn and to socialize with others. In particular, students are likely to lose their trust in strangers or other students in the school (Langman 79-86). For instance, young students usually develop a lot of fear and refuse to go back to school after witnessing a shooting incident. This limits students’ ability to interact with each other in order to socialize and to share knowledge. Parents are likely to develop psychological disorders such as depression and stress if they are not able to cope with the loss of their children.
Shooting also leads to poor academic performance among students. Research indicates that shooting reduces enrollment rates in high schools (Boeckler and Sitzer 75). It also reduces students’ performance in key subjects such as English (Boeckler and Sitzer 76). The low enrollment is explained by the fact that parents are likely to avoid schools that have experienced fatal shootings to ensure the security of their children.
The trauma that students experience after surviving a shooting incident interferes with their ability to concentrate in class. This leads to poor academic outcomes among students. Shooting also interrupts the academic calendar. Students might be forced to stay at home for several days to facilitate investigations into the shooting incident. In addition, absenteeism is likely to be high if students become afraid of going to school after a shooting incident (Muschert and Sumiala 86). This leads to inadequate coverage of the syllabus, which in turn causes poor academic achievement. Students with low academic achievement have limited chances of joining the best colleges and universities in the country. In addition, they are less likely to join well paying professions or careers of their choice in adulthood. This suggests that the negative effects of shooting in schools can last for a very long period if the affected students are not assisted in time.
The following recommendations should be considered by the government and school administrators to prevent shooting in schools. First, schools should improve security within their premises or compounds to prevent shooting. This can be achieved by installing equipment such as metal detectors and surveillance cameras. This will enable school administrators to prevent students from carrying and using guns in schools. Bulletproof windowpanes should also be installed to protect students from stray bullets.
Second, schools should establish an interdisciplinary team to identify high-risk students. The team should be made up of “principals, social workers, counselors, probation officers, and teachers” (Muschert and Sumiala 94). The responsibility of the team should be to acquire and share information about students’ behaviors. Moreover, the team should use the information to design and implement corrective measures such as counseling and providing emotional support to high-risk students to prevent shooting in schools.
Third, principals and teachers should review the level of discipline in their schools on a regular basis (Boeckler and Sitzer 89). The review should enable principals and teachers to identify the patterns and prevalence of deviant behaviors such as bullying, as well as, the power distance among students. This will help in understanding the causes of shooting in schools and how to prevent it in time.
Finally, the government should improve the laws that regulate possession and use of guns in the country. Parents should be punished for failing to keep their guns away from their children. Furthermore, installation of equipment that can detect guns should be mandatory in all schools.
Shooting in schools is caused by several factors. These include the culture of violence, increased access to guns among students, and bullying. Students mainly shoot their colleagues to express their frustrations. Shooting in schools has negative psychological effects such as stress and trauma on students and parents. In addition, it leads to poor academic outcomes and low enrolment in the affected schools. Thus, shooting should be prevented by installing equipment that can prevent students from possessing or using guns in their schools. Moreover, counseling and emotional support should be provided to high-risk students to prevent them from engaging in gun violence.
Boeckler, Nils and Peter Sitzer. School Shooting: International Research and Case Studies, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012. Print.
CDC. School Violence: Data and Statistics 2013. Web.
Georgie, Ann, Sara Strachila and Bridget McMahon. “School Shootings: The Deadly Results of Teasing and Ostracism.” Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice Research and Education 2.1 (2010): 1-15. Print.
Langman, Peter. “Rampage School Shooters: A Typology.” Agressioon and Violent Behavior 14.1 (2009): 79-86. Print.
Muschert, Glenn and Johanna Sumiala. School Shootings: Mediatized Violence in a Global Age, London: Emerald Group Publishing, 2012. Print.