The Social Roots of School Shootings

Book - 2004
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In the last decade, school shootings have decimated communities and terrified parents, teachers, and children in even the most "family friendly" American towns and suburbs. These tragedies appear to be the spontaneous acts of troubled, disconnected teens, but this important book argues that the roots of violence are deeply entwined in the communities themselves. Rampage challenges the "loner theory" of school violence, and shows why so many adults and students miss the warning signs that could prevent it.Drawing on more than 200 interviews with town residents, distinguished sociologist Katherine Newman and her co-authors take the reader inside two of the most notorious school shootings of the 1990s, in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and Paducah, Kentucky. In a powerful and original analysis, she demonstrates that the organizational structure of schools "loses" information about troubled kids, and the very closeness of these small rural towns restrained neighbors and friends from communicating what they knew about their problems. Her conclusions shed light on the ties that bind in small-town America.
Publisher: New York : Basic Books, c2004.
ISBN: 9780465051038
Branch Call Number: 371. 782 RAM
Characteristics: xvi, 399 p. : ill., ports.
Additional Contributors: Newman, Katherine S.


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Sep 12, 2018

Insightful 2004 study of two notorious pre-Columbine school shootings (Heath High School in Kentucky and Westside Middle School in Arkansas) and their aftermath. The author and her team interviewed hundreds of residents affected directly and indirectly by the rampage shootings in an effort to get at how such crimes could happen and why typically they happen in close-knit, family-oriented, supposedly "safe" suburban and rural communities. What they found is fascinating and deeply troubling.

Their first and most important finding is this: neither of these school shootings or the copycats that followed in their wake (including the Columbine massacre) were committed by kids who suddenly "snapped" taking everyone by surprise. These boys--the shooters are nearly ALWAYS adolescent or teenage boys, and it turns out there are several depressingly logical reasons for that--did not simply snap. Their frustration and rage had been building for a long, long time, often in plain sight.
And though their crimes were shocking, many of their classmates and peers had received plenty of warnings in the form of boasts and threats that were not taken seriously. That so many students had heard or been told that the killings were coming--and in some cases were even shown the guns--yet said nothing to teachers or parents is one of the most perplexing aspects of these events. Why did so many kids who knew fail to warn? And how could some of them even have goaded the shooters into their final, terrible acts?

It's all revealed here, in almost exhausting detail. So are some sound suggestions for ways to rescue these children before they reach the point of no return, preventing future tragedies. Highly recommended.

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