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Caitlin Corbett

30 April 2014
Ms. Taravella
English 12 Research Paper

Research Paper Student Violence

Yes. I am a teacher at Columbine High School. There is a student here with a gun. He has shot
out a window I am in the library. Under the tables, kids! Heads under the tables! This
unnerving quote is part of a frantic 911 call made by Patti Nielson, a teacher at Columbine High
School, shortly after the shooting began on that sunny April morning in 1999. Eric Harris and
Dylan Klebolds merciless massacre at Columbine was one of the first major acts of student
violence, and by the time it was over, it was the most severe at the time. Since then, there have
been more than thirty acts of violence in schools in the United States alone. These horrific events
conjure countless emotions, leaving society to grapple with one question: Why?
Many elements and ideas have been the subject of blame for student violence. Rumors began to
surface very shortly after Columbine about the suspected causes. Violent video games,
someone suggested. The shooters were influenced by Marilyn Mansons shock-rock music!
another claimed. They were bullied! They were targeting the jocks! Rumors and myths and
accusations bubbled up. Angry, pained voices were searching for an answer to the appalling
wrath that their children and friends were forced to endure. Why? was the burning question for
a while. Many opinions have been formed over the fifteen years that have passed since
Columbine, and the time passed since other violent events.
In 2005, 16-year-old Jeff Weise shot and killed his grandfather before advancing into Red Lake
Senior High School and killing five students, a teacher, and security guard. In 2007, 23-year-old
Seung-Hui Cho entered Virginia Tech University with a gun and killed more than thirty people
before committing suicide. In 2012, 20-year old Adam Lanza shot his mother, Nancy, to death in
their Newtown, Connecticut home before driving to Sandy Hook Elementary School where he
shot and killed twenty first-grade children and six adults. He then turned the gun on himself. In
2012, 24-year-old James Holmes entered a movie theatre during a premiere of the film "The
Dark Knight Rises", where he then shot and killed twelve people.
In an article from the FBI, it is stated that forty-nine percent of shooters committed
suicide, thirty-four percent were arrested, and seventeen percent were killed by police. Forty-
three percent of the time, the shooting is over by the time the police arrive. Again and again, the
resounding question was "Why?"
As stated above, in the wake of these horrific tragedies, many people in society jump
immediately to various conclusions. Society tries to push away things theyd rather not think
about or acknowledge. They would rather immediately rally to give the perpetrators of these acts
life in prison, without understanding their motives. To understand the motives is NOT to defend
or condone what they did, but to bring closure to the families of victims, survivors, and
perpetrators alike. The predominant causes of the above stated shootings were suspected or
diagnosed mental illnesses, which were being treated in various ways. Eric Harris and Dylan
Klebold were both in counseling and attending anger-management courses before their rampage
at Columbine. Eric was taking the prescription antidepressant Zoloft, also known as sertraline,
before being prescribed Luvox, or fluvoxamine. He told his Diversion Program officer that he
felt that the Zoloft was not doing enough, and he needed a stronger medication. It has since been
speculated that he had lied, and had really felt that the medication was doing too much, and
working too well. (Cullen 261.) Similarly, Jeff Weise was taking the antidepressant drug Prozac,
or fluoxetine, before he killed his grandparents and seven others at Red Lake High School.
Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza had been taking Celexa, or citalopram. Movie theatre shooter
James Holmes was also on Zoloft at the time of his rage. It has been determined that Seung-Hui
Cho was prescribed and taking some sort of antidepressant, though it has never been stated
which exact one. An online article from CCHR International states, At least 31 school shootings
or school-related acts of violence have been committed by those taking or withdrawing for
psychiatric drugs, resulting in 172 wounded and 72 killed.
Clearly, it can be surmised that the medications that these people were prescribed were not
working as they should have been, and possibly producing severe side effects. Truthfully, it is
possible that happenings like the Columbine shooting and the tragedy at Red Lake could have
been prevented. The perpetrators doctors or therapists could have been more diligent in tracking
the patients behaviors or changes in morale and noting any and every drop in their emotional
and mental progress. Catching any kind of change in the person, no matter how miniscule, could
have possibly saved the individuals life and the lives of others. The fact of the matter is that
school shootings are continuing to happen. We can just sit back and call the shooters sick
monsters, completely different from us, and decide that the problem will be solved by censoring
music and violence in movies. Or we can accept that there are more Erics and Dylans out there,
who are slowly being driven by society down the same path and that if we act now, we can still
reach them before its too late. (Brown 21). This quote is from Brooks Brown, a young man
who was friends with both of the Columbine killers, and attended Columbine himself. He
presents a very valid and true point in his 2002 book No Easy Answers: The Truth Behind
Death at Columbine. Eric, Dylan, and all the other perpetrators in these horrific tragedies were
sick mentally sick. They needed help, and it was not given to them, or at least not well enough.
In Michael Moores 2002 documentary Bowling for Columbine, Moore speaks to Columbine
scapegoat Marilyn Manson. If you were to talk to directly to the kids at Columbine or the
people in the community, Moore asks, what would you say the if they were here right now?
Manson answers simply, I wouldnt say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have
to say, and thats what no one did. Again, this is not agreeing with or condoning what any of
them did at all. Understanding is not supporting.
Manson, in the previous quote, was correct. Eric and Dylan needed someone to listen.
They were ignored, both by people at Columbine High School and at other schools growing up.
They had no one to share their thoughts with, positive or negative. All that either boy had to
confide in was a journal. Eric also kept an AOL website. Dylan wrote about hating himself - not
anyone else. His writings were most often self-deprecating. Eric's, however, were hateful toward
the school, his former friend Brooks Brown, and the entire human race. "I hate the f-----g world,"
he wrote. In another entry, "I feel like God. I am higher than almost anyone in the f-----g world
in terms of universal intelligence." In between his self-loathing thoughts, Dylan wrote about "A
dark time, infinite sadness. I want to find love." He wanted love, from anyone, but particularly
from a girl in his class named Harriet. She hardly knew him. "Love was the most common word
in Dylan's journal. Eric was filling his Website with hate." (Cullen 187). It is clear, even now,
that the boys needed someone to listen. No one did.
In spite of all the myths surrounding Columbine, and the rumors that surely have
circulated after other mass shootings, people have failed to recognize the true cause of these
violent acts. Mental illness, either diagnosed or suspected, is the common denominator in all of
the aforementioned shooters. None of the shootings were caused, influenced, or encouraged by
video games, any music or performer, discrimination, or any other form of media. Could some
have been caused side effects of medication? Possibly. However, if a person is on some kind of
psychiatric meds, they were clearly diagnosed with one mental disorder or another. A game, a
movie, or a music artist is not going to cause psychopathic and/or sociopathic tendencies or
thoughts in any human being. To claim that they will is ridiculous.