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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence
things are a possible link between the inner-city violence and the rural and suburban violence.
The Role of the School
The fact that the violence took place in schools tends to magnify its importance and social consequences. Because people expect schools to be safe havens for adolescents, when violence happens in them, the consequences are particularly severe.
Another important implication is that the schools can be seen as a platform for launching interventions to prevent and control violence. Finding ways to engage schools in efforts to accomplish this goal would seem to be an urgent task.
A third implication is that conditions inside the school may be a potential cause of the violence. In one version of this idea, one could see the failure of the schools to put in place preventive measures as an important cause of the lethal violence and school rampages—an error of omission rather than commission. Or one could see the schools themselves as “criminogenic”—the social relationships and norms existing within the schools might have actually caused the violence to occur.
A fourth implication is that the school, as the largest and most common social setting for adolescents, is the most likely setting for interpersonal violence among them. And because it is the most common social setting, it also serves as the primary public arena for acting out. In most of the rural and suburban cases examined, the school served not only as a convenient place to commit violence, but also as a public stage on which to perform and to be seen.
In considering these hypotheses in light of the cases, the committee sees evidence for the first claim—that the location in school makes the social consequences of the violence worse, regardless of where the school is located. There is also evidence that the school was considered an important place to launch efforts to prevent future incidents—not only in the places that experienced the violence, but also in communities across the country.
It is much harder to determine whether the schools were an important cause of the violence—through either omissions or commissions. The schools successfully constructed a protective boundary that separates them to some degree from conditions in the community; generally speaking, kids are safer in schools than in other locations. The difficulty is that the boundary is not impermeable. The violence of inner-city communities can reach into the schools, and the impulses associated with rampage shootings like those we have seen in workplaces can come into schools as well. In hindsight, it seems that there might have been some things that