Babies Killing Babies
National Institute of Mental Health: Thinking About Violence in Our Schools
Office of The Surgeon General: Youth Violence
Two teenagers entered a high school in Colorado and opened fire on their classmates. The young gunmen end their lives, but not before taking the lives of fifteen students, and injuring twenty, finalizing the tragedy. In recent years we have experienced a rampage of violence in our schools. Researchers have yet to pinpoint the answer to this plague of violent disorders. The National Institute of Mental Health, and The Office of the Surgeon General have focused their research to the areas of stages of violence development, prevention and intervention, and methods of identifying the most effective treatments.
Studies by the Office of the Surgeon General have concluded that there are two paths for the materialization of youth violence. One is identified at an early age of puberty, the other in the adolescent stage. The research shows that if there is violence demonstrated in the early childhood stage of a child, the degree of violence in the child rises, as the child grows older, concluding in severe violent behavior. The group that is said to be in the early-onset group, or before puberty, is said to have a greater and more serious number of violence incidents during the adolescent years. This also leads to a determining factor for violent behavior during their adulthood, (see research by Stattin and Magnusson, 1996; and Tolan and Gorman-Smith, 1998). Research has shown that violence offenses committed by young men, between the ages of sixteen or seventeen, can be traced back to their puberty stage (D’Unger et al., 1998; Elliot et al., 1996; Huzinga et al., 1995; Nagin and Tr!
emblay, 1999; Patterson and Yoerger, 1997; Stattin and Magnusson, 1996). This is proof that the majority of offenders began their violent behavior during the younger years. However, the study also shows that those who began in the puberty stage did not commit the most serious and persistent acts of violence; moreover, by those who’s violent behavior began during adolescence. The study also concludes that there is very little support to the claims that youth violence can be easily identified at an early age. We can see an example of this in the violent shootings that took place in Jonesboro, Arkansas; where two boys, ages eleven and thirteen years old, opened fire during a false fire alarm, killing four girls and one teacher. On the other hand, most offenders have showed only minimum levels of childhood violence. It is obvious that there are different levels in which researchers have to evaluate violence in children. Further research programs are needed to target, puberty and a!
dolescent, stages of childhood violence.
Since 1997, we have experience such an explosion of school violence that parents, teachers, and community leaders are wondering whether or no is safe to send our children to school. The following are accounts of school violence as reported by ABC News:
· In February 1996, in Moses Lake, Washington, a fourteen year old boy wearing a trench coat opens fire in classroom with a hunting rifle. He kills the teacher, two students, and injures one other.
· In February 1997, in Bethel, Alaska, a sixteen year old opens fire with a shotgun. He kills the principal and another student. Two others students are injured. The young man was sentenced to two ninety-nine year terms.
· In October 1997, in Pearl, Mississippi, another sixteen year-old shoots nine students, two of them die including the shooter’s ex-girlfriend. The shooter’s mother is also found shot in her home. The youth is sentence to life in prison, and other students could be found guilty of accessory.
· In December 1997, in West Paducah, Kentucky, a fourteen-year-old is found guilty of shooting students in Heath High School. Three die and five others are wounded. The young offender is sentenced to life in prison.
· In March 1998, in Jonesborough, Arkansas, four students and one teacher are shot to death by and eleven and a thirteen year old boys. Ten others are injured during a false fire alarm. They were staged in the woods near the evacuation area. They can be held in juvenile court until the age of twenty-one.
· In April 1998, in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, a fourteen-year-old student shoots a teacher to death during a graduation dance.
· In April 1998, in Pomona, California, a fourteen-year-old boy shoots and kills two other teenagers on an elementary school basketball court.
· In May 1998, in Fayetteville, Tennessee, an eighteen year-old honor roll student kills another teenager just days away from graduation. The teenager killed was dating the shooter’s ex-girlfriend.
· In May 1998, in Houston, Texas, a fifteen year-old is shot and wounded after a gun misfires while it was inside the backpack of another seventeen year-old student. The student is charged with a third degree felony.
· In May 1998, in Onalaska, Washington, a fifteen year-old boy boards a bus with a gun and orders his girlfriend to get off the bus and took her to her home. He then dies from a self-inflicted headshot.
· In May 1998, in St. Charles, Montana, police intervene when information was found on three six-graders that had a "hit list" and plans to kill students on the last day of school during a false fire alarm.
· In May 1998, in Springfield, Oregon, a fifteen-year-old student opens fire in the school cafeteria and kills two students. The shooter’s parents are also found dead in their home. All this happened the day after the shooter was expelled for bringing a gun to school.
· In June 1998, in Richmond, Virginia, a teacher and a guidance counselor are shot and wounded in the hallway.
· On April 1999, in Littleton, Colorado, the most serious of school shootings, two young men wearing black trench coats fire, killing fifteen students, including themselves, and injuring twenty.
· On November 1999, in Deming, New Mexico, a twelve-year-old boy shoots and kills a young girl with a .22 caliber handgun.
· On December 1999, in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, five students were injured after a thirteen-year-old boy opens fire with his father’s 9mm pistol.
According to the Office of the Surgeon, there are hundreds of researches conducted on youth violence, yet there is little to be known about their effects. It has also been found that the funding allotted to the prevention of programs for school violence has been spent on unproductive programs (Mendel, 2000). However, there has been some advancement in information concerning youth violence. Some scientists have made progress in uncovering some of the causes and correlates of youth violence. Experts say that it had become difficult to identify effective programs. A recommendation is to use the resources of ineffective programs and allocate them to the programs that have been identified as affective. Another roadblock is the lack of cooperation between schools, communities, and juvenile justice authorities. Because of the reputation that most programs give no positive results, organizations are wary of trying new programs. The focus should be centered in providing a healthy!
, non-violent environment for children. Doctor Scott Poland, one of the two educators invited to the White House to discuss solutions to school violence with President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno, was asked to comment on the recent wave of youth violence and its prevention he stated that "we must reduce the violence in television, motion pictures, video games, and music. We must put the mental health of children in America first, and provide the schools with the resources that they need. And we must restrict gun access to children." "I am concerned at how our culture glamorizes violence, and portrays it as painless and guiltless." (Dr. Scott led the crisis response team in the Oklahoma City bombing incident in 1995)
Scientists have two different methods of identifying school violence. These are a meta-analysis method, and an empirical method. The first is a statistical method in which results of various studies are combined in order to achieve an estimate. The second is a review of the first in order to identify broad distinctiveness, and make recommendations on them. Statistics and the review of research is not the only practice in identifying the causes of youth violence. The National Institute of Mental Health has been studying a more scientific approach in the genetic research of brain development. Steven E. Hyman, Director of The NIMH states that " An understanding of the timing of brain development, and the types of environments in which it can proceed in a healthy trajectory have important policy implications. This awareness is a very important beginning in which we should built. For example, we know that brain development continues to throughout childhood and adolescence, but for success in school and life, we need t pay attention not only to cognitive development, but also to emotional development. The negative effects of neglect and abuse, poor adult supervision, and the influence of deviant peers and of exposure to violence are important, but have been well documented; less well understood are the emotional disorders of childhood that may lead to the violence that seems to come "out of nowhere". The causes of this violence; indeed the reasons for the frequency of depression and other emotional disturbances in our society are complex and not fully understood. A profound truth that we have learned about brain development and vulnerability to mental disorders is that as complex as the gene-gene interactions are providing to be, they do not explain everything; equally complex gene-environment interactions are also involved. The interactions of genes and environment permit the limited information in the genome to be read out in as way as to produce the human brain. Our brains have been described as the most complex structure in the known universe, and complex they must be to confer on humanity its wonderful richness and diversity, and above all, to permit us to adapt to the many different environments and conditions in which human beings live. How might the environment cause our brains to develop in one possible way rather than another? Insofar as we experience it or interact with it, the environment produces biochemical changes in the nerve cells within our brains. When such biochemical changes are of large enough magnitude, they turn gene on and off inside those cells as part of normal processes that go by the name of brain plasticity. These physical changes caused by experience within the brain are the basis of all long-term memory. During development, as these little tweaks add up, our brains get wired up one way or another. This has sometimes been described as sculpting the brain. This sculpting occurs, of course, !
by the regulation of genes by the environment, which not only builds new connections but also may eliminate connections that go unused." There is enough evidence, according to the study made by NIMH, to relate that development in genetic activity should be researched further. It is not to say that the research in place should be abandoned, but that new research should be implemented with current research. Hyman also states that sometimes there is no reasonable explanation for such violent behavior among youths; and that sometimes there is no apparent negative experiences in the past of violent offenders. In these cases the questions of economic and social status, family relationship, peer influence, stability, and family history.
There is much more research needed in the field of youth violence. Students, parents, school staff and the community should have a sense of safety regarding our educational institutions. There must be a reform of research programs in order to combined those programs that are successful with new programs. The government should be more involved with the allocation of funding, and drop the grants from programs that have sown little or no effect on finding an answer to detecting, preventing, and treatment of youth violence. Only then can our kids feel secured in our schools.