The Uncomfortable Truth About Victims
- Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Other parents have even become so fed up and angst-ridden that they’ve taken matters into their own hands, desperate and enraged after abdications of authority and a vacuum of common decency. Like Liang Jiqian, of China, a father sentenced to death for killing four boys and one woman and seriously injuring two other children. His son was continually bullied by local kids and villagers due to a bone disease that left the boy unable to speak or walk.
But it’s the school shootings that hit us the hardest, as they should. Is there a place more important to communities than where their children gather to learn and socialize? A school shooting wounds us more as a community than a shooting inside a house of worship, than inside a court of law. Adults see schools as a tender place, a kind of greenhouse that cannot endure real-life elements too long without freezing or scorching what’s inside. Our children are the focal point of so much worry and hope.
Our assumption is part of the problem. Those inside are not getting the protection they need. We can go ahead and blame “bad teachers” and self-serving school policies on bullying if it makes us feel better. But that will only make matters worse.
It’s true, not every teacher should be teaching. And some studies show that an alarming number of teachers not only don’t see clear incidents of bullying, but their lack of action when they do witness bullying is dismal.
However, what about a parent’s inability to raise a child who would know inside that it’s wrong to continually strip another person of common dignity? Isn’t this where the problem begins? We’re expecting schools to perform modern-day miracles. We’re expecting them to reform children who receive inadequate parenting year after uninterrupted year. Teachers and administrators are not the root cause of this cultural problem, and it’s not ultimately their task to correct it.
Disillusioned youth identify with killers who went from victim to victimizer; their desire for revenge is formidable. Kip Kinkel, serving 112-year term for killing his parents and then two students in his Oregon high school in 1998, has received money in the mail from strangers. Charles Williams, in prison on charges of killing two students in Santee, California, gets more than forty letters a week; several different online clubs and homemade Web sites are dedicated to him. The Youth Violence Project devoted a portion of their Web sites to the following question: “My teenager saw all the news stories about the latest school shooting, and to my surprise, he said that the kids who did it were ‘cool’ and ‘really brave.’ What should I do?”
After analyzing thirty-seven school shootings, the Secret Service found that “many of these children saw the killing as a way to solve a problem, such as to stop bullying by other children.” (That is to say, school shooters don’t snap; they plan, often as they’re haunted by depression and desperation.) The Service also warned against over-reliance on metal detectors, SWAT teams, profiles, zero-tolerance policies, and software. Researchers believe that [the answer] lies more in listening to children, dealing fairly with grievances such as bullying, improving the climate of communication in schools, keeping guns away from children, and investigating promptly and thoroughly when a student raises a concern
More than three-fourths of the killers were known to hold grievances, real or imagined, against the target and/or others. Two-thirds described feeling persecuted, bullied, or threatened—not teasing, but torment. In most cases, their retaliation was the first violent act against the target.
School killer Luke Woodham wrote in his journal: “I am not insane. I am angry. I am not spoiled or lazy….I killed because people like me are mistreated every day….I am malicious because I am miserable.”
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