Running head: SCHOOL SHOOTINGS: AMERICA'S TRAGEDY
School Shootings: A Tragedy in America
School Shootings: A Tragedy in America
The school shootings at Westside Middle School were orchestrated by two juveniles. On Monday, March 30, 1998 two boys ambushed students and teachers outside Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Andrew Golden a youth of 11 years and Mitchell Johnson who was 13 years old were responsible for this hideous tragedy. Apparently, Mitchell Johnson hid in the woods while Andrew set off the fire alarm causing the students and teachers to run out of the building. Armed with three stolen rifles and four handguns, the documentary explained that the two youth flushed kids and teachers out of the school by means of a false fire alarm then opened up on them. When they stopped shooting, four students and a teacher lay dead and 10 students were wounded. Alan Fox discussed some typical characteristics of school shooters which included easy access to guns. Other characteristics were alienation, frustration, and low self esteem. Mr. Fox stated that these kids typically just don't feel good about themselves. He blames the recent spate of school violence on the media and instant popularity arising from intense news coverage after the violence which encouraged a surge of "copycats". He also discusses the role of violence seen in today's movies, MTV and video games. Ignoring the warning signs of potential explosive juveniles was also sighted as a reason for this surge in school shootings. The series of so-called copy cat school shootings started on February 2nd, 1996 in Moses Lake, Washington at Frontier Junior High when Barry Loukatis age 14 opened fire on his algebra class in room 15. Home and family conditions of this child were bizarre and would later be used as mitigating circumstances. Barry's early childhood was described as "happy" by his mother Jody. But life changed for Berry around age 11 when he moved from Iowa to Moses Lake and his parents separated. The documentary depicted Barry as mentally disturbed and fixated on the idea that his father was having an affair. Berry had a plan for revenge. Berry and his mother conspired to tie up his father and his girlfriend and then his mother would shoot herself while her estranged husband watched. Berry's mother told her son that she planned to do this on February 14th. At school Berry was described by his peers as a "dork" or "hick". The most popular guy in school called him a "faggot". He was generally picked on for not fitting in and was outcast from peers and became known as a loner. Prior warnings that Barry was going to become violent included the fact that he had been suspended for bringing a gun to school. Other warning signs: he was a loner, bullied by his classmates and unhappy. Fox stated that early intervention by teachers and parents may stop a potentially explosive teenager. Fox proposes that after school programs, counseling, getting peers to speak out and approaching the teen making threats as the first step in disarming the violence. The Moses Lake School District now uses surveillance cameras and staff identification badges. The district, on the recommendation of a local task force, also added an alternative middle school targeting kids who were not thriving at mainstream schools. Fox describes the impending "warning signs" of violence at school which included wearing black trench coats. I agree with Fox, and although I also believe that juveniles should be allowed to dress as they please, we should also look at teens carefully who dress in macabre, dark clothes as they are personifying how they feel. Police need to be actively involved with juveniles who bring drugs or guns to school or make threats of homicide, but as Fox mentioned Police will not get involved unless concrete evidence exists that the juvenile is breaking the law. If there is one message that can be gleaned from Fox, it is to other parents: Get involved....
References: Agnew, R. (2002). Strain theory and school crime. Of Crime and Criminality (Sally Smith Ed.)
School Shootings: America 's Tragedy. DVD
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