encouraged some of his behavior. Andrew was also a latchkey kid and therefore had unsupervised and unstructured time alone at home. It was only in his own neighborhood that he was known as a menace.
We must emphasize that our understanding of Andrew’s character is based entirely on interviews with individuals outside his family. The Goldens were not accessible to us and hence we lack the kind of insight that might have been developed had we been able to interview his parents or grandparents.
According to a number of people close to the boys—including classmates, teachers, and law enforcement officials—bullying, or at the very least teasing, may have been a factor in the shootings. One of Mitchell’s teachers knew before the shooting that Mitchell was being picked on but felt that he was overreacting to his classmates’ teasing—that he was being too sensitive. Mitchell liked to brag and when classmates tried to cut him down to size, he would become angry. Concerned about being bullied, Mitchell may have chosen some friends who he felt would protect him, and the “tough” image he tried to project, including his frequent claims to gang affiliation, may have been a protective strategy. At the same time, Mitchell was seen as likely to bully others. He was by no means an outcast, and the anger he expressed at students in the school did not seem targeted at people who might have bullied him.
Andrew was a slight boy, leading some people to think it is possible that he was bullied. Students said that Andrew had friends, and while he wasn’t in any clique, he was not considered a loner. While several students did not have the perception that Andrew or Mitchell were picked on a lot, some classmates did tell adults in the community that they were bullied or teased. However, it does not appear that they were singled out for excessive abuse.
Bullying is considered by many to be a significant problem at Westside, especially on the bus and in the hallways, but it is not clear whether it is any worse than at any other middle school. Both students and teachers agree though that much of the bullying that occurs happens out of the sight of adults at the school. While bullying or teasing may have been part of the problem, no one, not even the boys, according to those who have spoken with them, is willing to say “bullying was the reason.” The boys have said that they felt put upon, but bullying alone does not explain their rampage.
Most of the people in the community understandably resent any representation of Southerners as gun-toting, violent people. Most boys learn