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Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence
some bitterness remains unresolved. In three cases, business continues to suffer because of the harm to the communities’ reputations.
The inner-city school shootings further shocked already traumatized community residents. Most experienced them as an extension of the gun violence in the neighborhoods of the schools, which in the two cities had claimed many lives over time. So many neighborhood youths had themselves been victimized, or had known other victims, that in one of the cases, young men spontaneously pulled up their shirts to show the researchers their scars from violent incidents. The trauma in both cases radiated from those directly affected to involve the entire city, including the mayor and the city council, in the response. Interestingly, the policy responses in all six cases were more homogeneous than the circumstances or causes seemed to be.
Although the lethal shooting sprees of the 1990s followed closely on and even seemed to emerge from or be influenced by the earlier violence—and may stem from similar underlying factors—the committee also considers it possible that these events represent a separate strain of violence. While the inner-city epidemic of violence was fueled by well-understood causes—poverty, racial segregation, and the dynamics of the illicit drug trade—the violence in the suburban and rural schools more closely resembles “rampage” shootings that occur in places other than schools, such as workplaces, or in other public spaces.
In these six cases, this idea is supported by the notable differences in the motives of the shooters and the circumstances under which the shootings occurred. In the inner-city cases, the shooting incidents involved specific grievances between individuals that were known in the school community. In contrast, the suburban and rural shooting incidents did not involve specific grievances. These shooters felt aggrieved, but their grievances were a more general and abstract sense of feeling attacked rather than a specific threat by an individual. The grievances of these youth were not understood by those around them. As in rampage shootings involving adults, suburban and rural school shooting cases generally seem to involve youth who have these kinds of exaggerated and somewhat abstract grievances.
Evidence from Trends
Whereas events that could be described as rampage violence are only a small component of all violence and seem to move independently of other forms of violence, the committee found a spike for all kinds of rampage