Teen Violence in Schools Essay   no comments

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Ever since the Columbine massacre occurred, people were asking “why?” There were reports that the shooters did not fit in, had barely any extra-curricular activities, and had no parental influence, as their parents were always working or away. These were true, but how bad does it have to get until someone decides to take such drastic measures as these shooters did? At what age does a sense of violence grow in a person’s mind? Can it be prevented? Many questions need to be asked about teenage violence, and some will be answered.

“In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a
Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.” — Martin Niemoller, 1945. This quotation may get people thinking that W.W.II
was a long time ago, and it will not happen again; a Nazi regime will not try to gain power. Violence is everywhere; and there have been so many times that a teen could have spoken up because they knew of a school shooting, yet they did not. “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” — George Santanyana. Maybe they did it out of fear, but because they did not speak up, many innocent people died.
Violence is a constant fact of life. And with more children growing up in a society where violence is becoming more acceptable, you must fear our future.

Teens today are facing too much pressure, anger and isolation from groups around them and will tend to not know how to deal with these problems effectively if they are not overcome. The main problem affecting these teens is most likely their own peers; since they are now at an age where they feel they must adjust their own behaviour, attitudes, and appearance in order to fit in.

Columbine; if you were to say this word around a group of people, they would know what it was. A Colorado school, placed under attack in April 1999 by two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Dressed in their trademark trenchcoats, they entered their school at 11:30 am and opened fire. They killed 12 students and one teacher, before killing themselves. Twenty three more were injured, several of these injuries were critical.1 What even possessed these teens to do it is unknown, and most likely will continue to be unknown. They came from well established families, and had good backgrounds. There were reports of them being pushed into lockers by their peers, making them feel like outcasts. But how far does it have to go? How bad does this harassment have to get before they just “snap”?

The teens from Columbine, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold obviously did not fit in. They hated the kids at school, and decided to get revenge. They came prepared for a huge assault too, bringing a 9-mm assault rifle, a semiautomatic pistol, two sawed-off shotguns and a supply of some three dozen homemade bombs. Some of these bombs, filled with shards of glass, would go off and tear into the bodies of their victims.  Other 20-cm pipe bombs were filled with nails and BBs to spray victims with these deadly
fragments. They planted about 35 devices throughout the school, including a 9-kg propane tank inside a duffel bag, rigged with a gasoline can and a timer.

After all school shootings, the blame game starts. Many turn to the media, peer pressure, parental control and influence, and in the case of Columbine, gun control. The boys were fascinated with violent computer games, they made their own Web site, which had links to bomb making sites. A father of a student said that he gave printouts from this Web site that included this threat: “ I live in Denver, and I would love to kill almost all of its residents… People with their rich snobby attitude, thinking they are all high and mighty… I will rig up explosives all over town and detonate each one of them at will after I mow
down a whole area of you.” After the man gave police this warning, they did nothing. One of the boys’ favourite movies was Natural Born Killers, a 1994 movie by Oliver Stone, which depicted 2 young murderers utterly devoid of remorse. They even made their own video in which they talked about destroying the school. They showed this video to one of their classes, but nobody took it seriously. The boys were also pushed around by their peers, verbally assaulted, and felt like misfits in the school. For their first 2 years of High School, they had blended in nicely, and in Grade 11, “They totally changed,” said Mike Paavilainen “They started wearing all black and keeping to themselves. It was kind of
weird.” Columbine was full of jocks and preppies, and as the boys began to dress strangely, listen to suicidal themed music, and develop a fascination with Hitler, it is easy to see how they did not fit in. A diary of one of the boys showed that they had been planning their attack for a year, for the date of Hitler’s birthday (April 20). The dairy said, “We want to be different, we want to be strange and we don’t want jocks or other people putting [us] down…. We’re going to punish you.”  Dylan Klebold’s parents were very well-to-do. His father, Thomas ran a real estate company, and his mother, Susan was a college councellor. They lived in a $750,000 house on an exclusive road. Dylan owned a BMW, which he drove every day to the Harris’ house. Eric Harris lived in a $300,000 home,
where his father Wayne is a retired air force pilot. They lived well enough, and with so much money, one could find it hard to see why they decided to change. Where were their parents when they were planning these dangerous acts? Police found a shotgun barrel on a dresser and bomb making materials in one of the boys’ room. A lot of the weapons were clearly visible, and the parents should have noticed something, yet they did not. Even neighbours reported hearing glass shattering the night before the attack – most likely things to go into their deadly bombs.

In terms of nature versus nurture, there is no gene for violence. Violence is a learned behavior, and it is often learned in the home or the community from parents, family members, or friends. Children that show aggressive behaviour at a young age are more likely to grow up to become involved in violence–either as a victimizer or as a victim. The home is the main factor that starts accepting violence at a young age. A child who sees a parent or other family member abused is more likely to see violence as an
acceptable way of behaving and will use violence to solve their own problems. Although violence is not from a person’s genes, studies show that there is a connection between violent behavior and some inherited traits. Some of these traits are things such as impulsiveness, learning difficulties, low IQ, and fearlessness.
These traits can lead to a person becoming violent. Another study shows that males are more likely to be violent.

Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were alienated; they chose to be. So they focused their resentment and rage on powerful images of violence and anarchy. Stephen Kent, a sociologist at the University of Alberta who specializes in alternative belief systems says, “What happens with extremely alienated kids is that they will most likely obtain their values from the primary deviant subgroup. They spend increasingly large amounts of time with one another, to the exclusion of contact with a larger society.” If this group
were to encourage the members to ignore the pain of others, then the members will soon believe that pain is not a big thing. So they can then vent their anger on the object of their hatred, in this case, all of the students at Columbine that were different from them. Since the boys made their victims beg for mercy, it showed that they were on a huge power-trip, and had huge amounts of rage inside them.

There is no profile for a school shooter. Some of the children that committed a shooting at school were popular, some were outcasted by their peers. Some of them had good grades, and others were failing.
Some of the kids were in foster care, others were from good homes, where some of their parents were well known members of the community. It does not always depend on the teen’s personality traits, it is usually just what they feel inside.

Jefferson County District Attorney David Thomas talked about all the things that could have led up to this massacre. He spoke of cultural change, how children grow up where violence is now more acceptable, how the police failed to see the signs, and how society makes children without feeling or remorse. Alan Leschied, a leading Canadian researcher on teen violence, points out that there are a lot of factors involved to create a Columbine. “It’s dangerous to take a very complex thing and whittle it down to one single cause. It is a combination of how culture is working, how the family is working, and how culture within that school was developing. All of this came together to create this tragedy.”
The signs of a teen willing to commit a violent act may not be obvious at all times. Most teens want to make it seem as if they are in control, and try to mask their true feelings. The best people who can prevent a violent act from occurring are friends and family. If parents are able to have a comfortable conversation with their children, then they should consider it. Also, many children who feel rejected can start to do the same to others. Some will try to distract themselves with movies or games. Mostly, children have not been taught how to deal with their anger, so when dealing with their feelings, they do the wrong
things. Basically, whenever a child seems to be acting in a strange manner is when friends, family or school should consider intervening.

In hopes to prevent violence, programs can be put in place at a young age. These do not have to be taught in schools, but parents can help to prevent violent behaviour. To encourage children to act polite and non-violent, it is encouraged that they have positive role models, which can help to boost their self esteem.
Children need to have supportive relationships, with parents, teachers and friends; this helps them to develop a sense of trust. Being socialized correctly can help in improving overall social skills, peer relationships and a belief in oneself.

In July 2000, The Federal Interagency Forum released some statistics that rates of juvenile violence have dropped to the lowest point in 20 years. Although teen murder rates have dropped by 60%, and teen violence by 20%, it does not mean that violence is totally banished. Violence is a factor and will remain a factor in all of North American society. The culture of violence is only going to increase during the coming
years because violence is becoming more acceptable on television. Many of those students who went on a school shooting actually warned their classmates and family beforehand what they wanted to do. These children were trying to get attention, they just went about it the wrong way. It is now upto their peers, family, teachers and community to give these children the help they need, before it gets out of hand, before more die.

Written on November 18th, 2010

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