Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Burning Question: Why are Schools Targets of Violence?

An analysis of those who commit acts of violence in schools found they tend to be students who feel bullied and isolated.

Santa Monica College was attacked by a shooter. Sandy Hook Elementary was the scene of a massacre. The list of attacks on schools in the United States continues to grow.
Why are schools so often the target?
As far back as 2002, the Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education analyzed school shootings and uncovered disturbing trends.
That report said 95 percent of attackers were current students. The remaining 5 percent were former students.
"Most attackers had a grievance against at least one of their targets prior to the attack," the report said.
Related: 6 months after Newtown shooting, what's changed?
David Sack, CEP of Promises Treatment Centers, said attackers who survive often report specifically targeting bullies.
"Many perpetrators felt bullied or wronged by others and, more importantly, didn't feel heard when they tried to get help," Sack said. "Enraged, they returned to the scene of the crime — their schools — and sought their revenge."
The Secret Service report said most attackers are part of fringe groups disliked by mainstream students and have few or no close friends.
"Many attackers felt bullied, persecuted or injured by others prior to the attack," the report found. And this bullying was often "long-standing and severe."
But bullying doesn't tell the entire story.
Related: Town to fight bullies by hitting their parents with 3-figure fines
A 2013 report by the Suffolk Public School district cited some early warning signs that a student may be contemplating violence, including social withdrawal, uncontrolled anger, discipline problems, being a victim of violence or bullying, written and verbal expressions of violence, obsessions with weapons and exposure to violence at home.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adds a few more risk factors, such as drug abuse, poverty and poor family functioning.
Sack said family problems, frustration with the education system or mental illness, potentially undiagnosed, can also play a part.
"For anyone between 5 and 21 years of age, school is the place where a majority of their young lives unfold," Sack wrote. "In this sense, school is a logical place for issues at home or with teachers or others students to be acted out."
The Suffolk Public School district report found that depression and isolation correlate with acts of violence.
Additionally, "there is almost always a catastrophic loss — the loss of a job, relationship, money," the report says.
The CDC recommends preventing school violence by identifying the risk and developing and testing prevention strategies. It also suggested mentoring programs and parent- and family-based programs.
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