Are school shootings so much more common in America, in part, because of the pressure and isolation many students experience while in the education system?

Are there other reasons? What are schools and universities doing to limit the possibility and the general "appeal" of shootings?


Dylan Ferniany, Ed.D. in Leadership, Policy, and Organizations

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Mental health is certainly a major factor contributing to school shooting. Oftentimes educators are ill-equipped with the very real psychiatric needs some students have. Schools should employ mental health professionals but under-resourced schools generally do not have access to experts with the kind of knowledge needed to deal with student's mental health issues. School counselors are often tasked with assessment, college prep and application, and a host of other responsibilities that inhibit their ability to address the needs of mental health in students. Schools often have to seek out external organizations to help with this need. Mental health, unfortunately, comes with stigmas that may prevent people from getting treatment for potentially serious illness. Schools are under-resourced in their ability to deal with these problems, but we should take a serious look as a society about what we are prioritizing and begin to address these issues in our schools in a proactive, rather than re-active approach.

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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Universities are working to ensure that students know they are welcome and cared for. There are mental health services, and professors are encouraged to know their students and refer them if need be. However, the schools are overwhelmed with this need and students often have to wait for the free services. This article/video will give you more perspective.

There is no easy answer, and in our country we have sadly grown used to such violence. As we continue to grow the safety net, hopefully more students will avoid violent actions.

M. Erez Kats, Seattle Language Arts Teacher

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I am not sure that school shootings can necessarily be simplified down into any one simple explanation, and I'm not sure that schools in America are necessarily that different from schools abroad. If anything, I'd say there might be much more pressure in schools in say Europe or Asia given the fact that they tend to be more rigorous in the areas of foreign language, math, science, etc. I think the pressure might be higher there, both from the parents' high expectations, and also when you factor in that students actually don't even all continue beyond 9th grade in Europe for example - they may choose to go straight into the work force or focus on more vocational subjects or professions. It's really a completely different world from what we have here in the US.

I think guns themselves, and access to these guns, both on the internet and through other methods is probably the number one problem here. There is no question that a lot of bullying and cliques, sometimes even gang activity and sexual pressure factors into many problems here in the US, not to mention the internet itself. Both bullying and cyberbullying are huge factors. There is a book called "Defending Jacob," by William Landay, which does an excellent job of showing many of these circumstances that lead a distressed teenager to be accused of a crime, and all the emotions and legal proceedings, including the investigation and interviews with his classmates that ultimately lead him to commit a crime he didn't initially commit. This is of course one of many. The shootings we've seen at Sandy Hook and in Colorado for instance often point to various socio-emotional problems encountered by students.

There are so many factors, but indeed these could be a couple of the factors. I believe problems at home though, and other more deeply rooted psychological problems are more likely to blame. Like Obama says, I hope decreased ability to obtain guns and greater programs of education and bringing awareness to this problem will ultimately curb this disturbing trend.

Jill Berkowicz, Educator, Adjunct Professor, Author

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"...pressure and isolation while in the education system" for some,may play a role. However to simplify school shootings to a simple answer is to deny the complexity of the manner in which our society values children, each other, respect, acceptance,love, and yes, guns. It is not the schools alone who are responsible for teaching how to maneuver through difficult situations or overpowering feelings. Parents have a role in this. As a society, our values about name calling, polarization, right and wrong, you and me, prejudice, and generosity are all contributors. And yes, when some students feel marginalized when in school, but not all of them are school shooters. The question is better posed, "How can schools join with parents and mental health agencies to guarantee that ALL students can feel included and safe in schools and in their lives?"

Tim Villegas, Founder and Curator-At-Large for Think Inclusive

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That is a very interesting question. I don't think there is any definite statistics on that correlation. The easy answer is that we as a country do not take mental health very seriously. If our educational system was the cause of someone experiencing pressure and isolation, our healthcare system certainly has not helped alleviate that problem.

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