Thursday, May 21, 2015

take them seriously | schoolboys threaten first

Friends in a small town on the fringe of a major metropolitan area are wrestling through a shockingly extended period of racist hostility and death threats against their son at his junior high school.

The specifically racist tone of the threats is outrageous and soul-shattering. That said, there are immediate physical safety issues that can and must be addressed while the community sorts out longer term questions about the common good.

Lethal violence related to school populations is rarer than many people think, and the research is so thorough and conclusive that I want to set out two things we know beyond a shadow of doubt:

  1. Not every student or former student who threatens violence follows through on the threat 
  2. Since 1974 in the US, every student or former student who committed lethal violence against his school population, threatened to do so beforehand

In every case of lethal school violence, someone knew a boy or young man intended to cause harm, but didn't believe it,
or failed to take it seriously,
or let personal loyalty overshadow wisdom and goodness,
or couldn't imagine what ended up happening, even after the perpetrator painted a picture.

Following deadly school violence in Ohio, I summarized what we know about all this. The observations were made with parents and youth workers in mind, so there's more to be said at the institutional and community level. But—for everyone, at every level—the message couldn't be clearer: Schoolboys threaten violence before they act out at school... so take them seriously.

No comments: