Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

What Makes Kids Go Bad and What We Can Do to Help

Northeastern Professor of Sociology/Criminology Jack Levin offered remarks in response to shooting events involving schools in recent memory, including offering facts, things we should not do or encourage, and what we actually can do.

Some facts:
*  Individuals who commit these acts are motivated by power, recognition/infamy, control, and revenge *  Factors are based in chronic frustration/depression (bullying, severe family conflict), externalization       of blame, isolation from conventional influences (no friends or delinquent friends), catastrophic loss       (rejection by a girl/boyfriend, eviction - including graduation, a humiliating episode - like in a                  hallway or cafeteria)......almost all shooters were bullied
*  Shootings cluster because of the copycat syndrome (shootings inspire other shooters)
*  Most weapons used are not assault rifles, but semi-automatic weapons often purchased legally by           parents and available in the home
*  Typical school shootings are at a HS/MS and involve a single shooter who has made revealing               remarks that are dismissed, was chronically bullied/humiliated while enduring family conflict,                 suffered catastrophic loss, and took a firearm from home.
*  Animal abuse is a key predictor - especially dogs/cats where abuse is designed to maximize suffering     (and some shooters use these methods later on people)
*  Most school bullying programs are ineffective but research isn't finding many that are - more work         needs to be done
*  In general terms, crime is down to levels not experienced since the 1950's and school rampages are         extremely rare

What not to do:
*   Have police presence in school since it tends to be ineffective and invites the community to think            that the school is unsafe (and school is the safest place all day that students can be)
*   Tolerate concealed weapons - like arming teachers - since that can encourage an angry student to            "have it out"
*   Don't encourage excessive media attention; journalists have a right and responsibility to report, but        putting a shooter on the cover of an entertainment magazine glorifies the shooter and gives him what      he wants

What can we do?:
*  LIMIT THE CULTURE OF SILENCE - it's not cool to NOT tell vs. it's not cool to tell and                 bullying (including cyberbullying) must be addressed. Need to intervene at first warning signs.
*  Employ a trusted and effective School Resource Officer who can make faculty and students feel             more secure, educate students about bullying, limit the culture of silence, all while dealing with                   everyday episodes of crime/truancy
*  Work to find the best evidence-based anti-bullying programs that are available
*  Parents have to take some responsibility since violence is deeply ingrained in our culture