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The Psychology of Mass Violence in a School Setting


It is unthinkable that several months after the fateful mass murder in a Colorado movie theater -- at a time when justice has not yet been received by Batman's beloved fans -- a new mass murder has once again taken place. This time, the timing would have been planned: bloodshed inside an elementary school involving 20 mostly six to seven-year old innocent children, and the approaching Christmastime.

One critic interviewed by Fox News channel at the height of their 'data gathering' hours said that one way by which we can curtail the cycle of committing mass violence in the American society is by "de-popularizing" the incident and by avoiding to mention the name of the perpetrator. Really?! Where is the logic coming from? Here's my take.

The accused mass murderer was a 20-year old Adam Lanza. At his age, he 'still' lived with his mother (well, that's part of a prevailing American culture to stay away from the family at 18; my culture says the whole family -- even the youngest grandchild -- can still enjoy being with the grandparents as long as they want).

Stories said that Adam might have had a dispute with his mother, killed his mother by shooting her on the face using one of her very own gun collections, then he drove his mother's car to Sandy Hook Elementary, killed 24 more, and ended his life in the process.

This is not the first time that a tragedy happened involving mass killing. The settings and time vary but certain factors are similar, or worst -- the same. It happened in a shopping mall in Oregon, in a Colorado movie house, in a Wisconsin Sikh temple, in a Michigan neighborhood, and in a Virginia university.


Should Gun Laws be Blamed -- or Should Brains be Drained?

While it is important to revisit the 2nd amendment and the regulation of gun sale, it may just be the tip of the iceberg. Among the senseless killings similar to this latest insanity drama, there is one thing of vital importance that calls for our attention. It is notable that every incident is preceded by an undiagnosed mental illness. Among the attacks involving the then Arizona Congressman Gabby Giffords, moviegoers in a small town in Colorado, or university students at Virginia Tech, the killers were believed to be disillusioned, troubled, and psychotic. These significant patterns are also true to Adam Lanza.

Criminal Justice experts would certainly agree that diagnoses simply do not justify the violence; they provide explanation for these events. Therefore, it is imperative that their causality be investigated, discover and identify relevant factors that can explain the incidents, and eventually prevent them from happening again. Where is the government in these stages of preventing mass violence from happening again?

I definitely salute the President for 'talking less' about the matter and instead shed tears in sympathy of the bereaved families of those innocent children, but much needs to be done in the days to come.

If I continue to blurt out my views on school leadership and and administration, I will only earn raised eyebrows from administrators who simply and myopically recognize me as a lowly resource classroom teacher. However, after years of experiences as an administrator myself, I can't just tolerate compartmentalized and conventional thinking in the school system.

Security experts agree that a simple error of locking the door can dramatically bring significant amount of injury and number of casualty in such a fatal shooting inside the school. The life of those being secured are dependent on several factors: leniency in the school reception hall, presence of glass walls, and faulty auto-lock installation. Added to this is the absence of an evidence-based approach to make decisions on their own by other school staff without waiting for someone else's decision. In the case of Sandy Hook Elementary, the principal died in the process. No one was in-charge of providing latest instructions via a paging system anymore until the rescue came. Heroic initiatives of teachers are overwhelming, though.

The images of sadness, pain, and loss are all over, but nothing else can be done. The principal, psychologist, teachers, and 20 young and promising lives are gone. Instead of watching television and weep with those who lost their innocent kids, I wish school administrators and government leaders are contemplating of what needs to be done in the next days to come. This should not be forgotten, and significant actions are needed. Among us who are part of the school system, let us not only turn on the fire drill alarm; let us convene, share, and talk about what to do before we are faced by a similar incident.


The Missing Link

Psychologist and experienced mass murder investigators are preoccupied by a multitude of questions that can put an end to this senseless violence. They explain that an element of rage follows some kind of humiliating hurt. It could take in the form of an absence of friends, bullying in school or in the work place, breaking up from a relationship, recent divorce or separation, of being fired from a job. The inability to handle the pressure and emotional burden caused by a tragic personal trouble or event involving him or her could lead to committing mass violence. This is affirmed by German sociologist Emile Durkheim's view that the lack or an apparent absence of social integration (which sometimes can be described by the person's notion that "Nobody loves me anymore.") is a fuel to these evil acts.

Was Adam Lanza a product of this humiliating hurt?

What to do Next

Join the grieving nation in the killing of innocent lives by liking the Sandy Hook FB page at RIP Sandy Hook Elementary School Children

Watch President Barack Obama's Meet the Press Quick Session (courtesy of CNN News)


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