Bullying is behind foiled Columbine-style school massacre
A 15-year-old boy accused of stockpiling gasoline, propane and a machete for a planned school attack on the anniversary of the Columbine school massacre burst into tears and admitted to police he was upset about being bullied, according to the detective who interviewed him.
In our culture of Zero Tolerance, it’s considered appropriate for children as young as six-years-old to be treated as suspects for bringing a Swiss Army knife to school, but school administrators rarely consider acting preemptively to stop school massacres’ primary catalyst: bullying. States allocate resources to metal detectors, undercover cops, locker searches, bag inspections, snitching programs, and every other imaginable police state accessory designed to create an oppressive, stressful environment, which is just a super influence on teenagers, nature’s volcanoes with legs.
Bullying is still widely ignored by schools despite the fact that it is consistently listed as the central motivating factor behind some of the most brutal high school massacres of the past decade. After the Columbine shootings, the media (as usual) raced for the bottom in a hapless quest to blame anything and everything for making Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold snap. It was Marilyn Manson! No, bad parenting!
What no one seemed ready to admit was that their classmates had mercilessly teased Eric and Dylan, and Columbine high school was famous for rampant bullying, which was either ignored or secretly celebrated by teachers and administrators. (This may seem like a cold summation, but you’d be amazed how pathetically sycophantic many adults behave around the popular kids in high school.)
Of course, the Columbine shooting had nothing to do with Eric and Dylan’s music or parents. Millions of youth listen to Marilyn Manson, and a vast majority don’t shoot their classmates, so that was a red herring from the start. Additionally, boys both came from two-parent homes, and they both declared their devotion and endless love to their parents before the massacre. In fact, as Mark Ames writes in Going Postal, their only regret was that the planned massacre would hurt their parents.
“Eric Harris, considered by many to be the more “evil” of the two, said, ‘My parents are the best fucking parents I have ever known. My dad is great. I wish I was a fucking sociopath so I don’t have any remorse, but I do. This is going to tear them apart. They will never forget it.’”
Eric and Dylan’s primary motivation was — surprise! — bullying. An article in the Rocky Mountain News described the video diaries of Eric and Dylan:
“They explain over and over why they want to kill as many people as they can. Kids taunted them in elementary school, in middle school, in high school. Adults wouldn’t let them strike back and fight their tormenters, the way such disputes were once settled in schoolyards. So they gritted their teeth. And their rage grew.”
And now we have this new 15-year-old “mastermind,” who burst into tears the moment an adult showed the slightest interest in him and asked why he was so depressed and rage-filled.
“It was obvious that he was depressed and as we were talking, he had no problem explaining to me everything he was planning on doing,” said police Detective David Conklin, who interviewed the boy for about 45 minutes. Conklin said the boy cried as he explained he was picked on and bullied, and why he wanted to take revenge.
The boy had transferred out of Monroe-Woodbury, a school of about 2,500 students, but harbored grudges against former classmates, police said. It appears he was going to act alone.
So great was this kid’s rage that even though he had transferred out of his old school, he felt compelled to go back and punish his former oppressors. That’s not a normal schoolyard tiff. This is the result of systemic bullying — the kind ignored by teachers and unpunished by administrators.
Many teachers and administrators ignore bullying because it seems like a minor problem, the kind liberal parents harp on because their Timothy is just so darn sensitive. In a machismo culture like America, children are taught to suck up their problems, quit whining, and carry on.
Counterintuitively, there is a new Zero Tolerance approach to what was formerly considered “normal” venting like play yard fist fights or shit-talking. The result is a horrible amalgamation of neglect during the critical “early period” of bully trauma, an oppressive police state constantly raising the overall panic level of students, and Zero Tolerance guidelines in all the wrong places.
Unable or unwilling to cope with bullying, some schools now rely on snitching propaganda campaigns, the genius idea of having hormone-laden fury balls rat on each other for, oh, whatever reason the day inspires. Eric and Dylan were victims of such a snitching program, and the pair were once pulled from class in front of everyone and searched thoroughly, only to be released later when it was discovered that the accusation the boys were carrying drugs was false.
This was only one kind of many forms of bullying Eric and Dylan endured, including being called “faggots” by the cool Columbine kids, the types of children teachers hate to punish because they’re sadly trying to live out some unfulfilled fantasy of being included in the cool clique.
Snitching programs are just another way for lazy administrators to pass the burden of keeping order to the students, effectively robbing children of possibly one of the only perks of high school, the meager solidarity youth share within their cliques. Without solidarity, and the knowledge they can trust their friends and peers not to betray them to authorities, the already lonely process of adolescence is magnified exponentially.
Suddenly, the normal aloneness of high school becomes a horrific dungeon of despair where “live together, die alone,” becomes “live alone, die alone.” It’s no wonder bullied students have reached such a frenzy that shooting up their peers seems like a rational response to their oppressive lives.
This is probably why Eric and Dylan so desperately clung to each other. Imagine if you really believed there was only one person who really understood you. You’d go to the ends of the earth to be with that person. After a while, your thinking would get a little warped, and unfortunately for everyone, that was Eric and Dylan’s fate. They thought it was the two of them against the world, and because that was their vision, twelve students and one teacher died.
There have been so many of these Columbine-style massacres (many, thankfully, foiled) that it’s impossible to label each of the perpetrators as sociopaths. There have to be other motivating factors at play, and the one that consistently appears is bullying. It may be an unpopular stance to take in a cutthroat corporate culture like America, but it’s time to teach the kids to play nice.
Zero Tolerance shouldn’t just apply to the child who brings a Swiss Army knife to school. It should apply to the captain of the football team, who thinks the theater kids are “faggots,” and loudly offers his opinions in the cafeteria. Zero Tolerance shouldn’t be a way to have students rat on each other, and suppress already disenfranchised and lonely outcasts.
In order to prevent these kinds of horrific massacres, a Zero Tolerance program should be preemptive with emphasis placed on bullying prevention. If teachers make it clear that it’s not okay to pick on the skinny, pock-faced outsider, then at least a lonely, desperate kid will know he has one friend to turn to when he starts fantasizing about shooting the football team.