I am not big on personal anecdotes, but I'd like to offer something that might shed some light on this topic. Years ago, I knew a principal at a high school who wanted to establish a tone of personal regard amongst the staff to the students. The principal was afraid that his staff was not communicating and reaching out to all the students. His idea was a staff meeting held in the gym. On the walls he had a list of every student in the school. He had a bucket of red dot stickers at the front of the gym. His instructions to the staff was simple: If you have had a personal or meaningful conversations and established a rapport with a student, place a sticker by that student's name. The staff went along with it and after about ten or fifteen minutes, all the stickers were done. He then asked the staff to study the rosters with stickers. There was a cover of silence when the staff saw how many students did not have a single sticker. The principal noticed the silence and remarked: "Your silence here is because these students, the ones without a sticker, are also silent. They come to school in silence, and are invisible. These are the ones we have to reach. Time's running out."
No doubt all the reasons listed as to why a student brings a weapon to school are very valid. No doubt that there is an empathy gap and delusion is present. Yet I cannot help but feel that a reason why students enter into these realms is that they have not been reached by an adult. I think that this link is critical. It might be small, maybe a conversation in the hallway, or walking a kid to class, or helping them carry their books. Whatever it may be, but if every teacher in every building sought to reach as many kids as possible, perhaps this might be a good way to work with students and show them that there can be alternative approaches to remedying their hurt, their pain, their discomfort. I think that principal was dead on: "Time's running out."
Are you asking in reference to one particular boy or are you asking about school shootings in general? There have been many in the last few years. Each of these tragedies is unique, but there do seem to be some common threads that run through them.
Someone who would take a gun to school and shoot fellow students clearly lacks empathy, the ability to identify with others and feel concern for them. Empathy makes it possible for us to feel or imagine what others are feeling. It forms a kind of bond between us and other people. A person without empathy has no understanding, respect, or appreciation for other people as fellow human beings.
Sociopaths are people who lack empathy. They have no conscience. They feel only their own emotions and needs. They will do whatever they have to do to meet their own needs, even if it means hurting someone else.
Another element in school shootings seems to be a sense of rage that can develop from feeling helpless for a long period of time. School shooters frequently have been students who were bullied by other students and finally struck back violently. School shooters lack feelings of self-esteem. They do not feel successful at school. They do not feel they belong.
Finally, delusional thinking often plays a role. Someone who would shoot fellow students isn't "thinking straight." He views the world in an irrational way. He believes things are true that are not true.
I'm sure there are many other psychological forces at work in these school tragedies, but these are a few for you to consider.
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