There have been a total of 142 school shootings in the U.S since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, according to Mass Shooting Tracker.
That’s nearly 1 deadly attack at an educational institution across the country every week.
What’s causing the violence? It’s hard to find answers.
Not all school shootings are perpetrated by boys but the vast majority are. Why are we missing the warning signs and failing to help these youths before they fall so drastically off center?
A study completed by Dr. Kathryn Farr at Portland State University has shed some light on the issue by looking at the personalities and characteristics of these young male school shooters.
Farr says she believes schools should talk with students about school shootings, and discuss why they could be happening. School curriculum should address why some adolescents feel violent, and some boys struggle with ideas of masculinity and not meeting these, in their own mind.
Here are 3 characteristics that male school shooters share, according to Dr. Farr’s study:
1) They’re Bullied and Shunned at School
Sadly, Dr. Farr found in her analysis of 31 school shooters that most of the boys who committed the shootings were severely bullied by others at school.
They were found to be “repeatedly and publicly tagged with homosexual and feminized epithets” and were called a “homo,” a “cry baby” or a “fag”. This obviously caused them to feel marginalized, to have a low social status in the community and to label themselves as an outsider.
To compensate for this ‘lack of masculinity’, the outsiders turned to dramatic displays of bravado. This included bringing weapons to school before the attack.
Some shared violent themes in their writings, drawings, and class presentations and all 31 shooters bragged about their plans to execute the shooting, before doing it.
2) Some Have Psychiatric Problems
Of the 31 shooters Farr analyzed, about a third were found to have been diagnosed with a psychiatric problem.
Mental health problems do not indicate that an individual is going to be violent studies claim. However, when combined with particular negative environmental factors, it could be a fact that it proves to be a dangerous combination, and should be considered carefully in adolescents.
3) They Come From Extremely Abusive Homes
Ten of the 31 shooters came from extremely abusive home lives, Farr noted. Providing community support services that can help troubled youth escape a negative home life and to seek help could have changed the outcome.
Dr. Farr says that schools should have programs in place for students to report troubling behavior to staff members.
It’s a fact that very few boys who are bullied will turn into mass shooters. However, having additional support structures in place could help to prevent future disasters, Farr believes.
There also need to be opportunities for both young boys and girls to talk about gender issues such as ‘what it means to be a man’ and ‘what it means to be a woman’ at school, says Dr. Farr.
Boys who express disturbing ideas that aren’t within healthy guidelines should have the social, emotional and mental support they need provided to them, through extra programs and in-school referrals, she states. This can help them deal with dangerous emotions and perhaps living circumstances before they become a larger problem.
For more information on the difficult task of talking to kids about school shootings, click here.
Photo credits: vcha/Shutterstock.com; Ron Frank/Shutterstock.com; Gina Jacobs/Shutterstock.com