School Violence

Last week most of us probably watched the news, stunned at the horrible tragedy in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania where Carl Charles Roberts IV entered the Amish schoolhouse and shot 10 girls on October second. I know I couldn’t believe it, and the first thought I had was, “When is it ever going to end?”

When I first wrote my book about school violence in 1993, the research depressed me and I hoped that things would improve. Things had to improve. Children were killing each other, and certainly we could find ways to make the violence stop.

Unfortunately, not much changed, and instead of instances of one child being shot because he or she dissed another child, we had Columbine. The day that news broke, I cried. So many young innocent lives cut short. And I just couldn’t imagine what madness drove Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold into their school in Littleton, Colorado with an arsenal of guns and knives and compelled them to start shooting, killing twelve students and one teacher before turning the guns on themselves.

That tragedy spawned others and when it was time for more research for the third printing of my book, the statistics and stories were even more troubling. It was like some of the worst video games had stepped into reality and kids were playing with real lives.

People can argue all day long that they are just games and have no bearing on school violence, and I say that is a bunch of crap. People aren’t dreaming up these horrible acts of violence. The ideas have to come from somewhere. I’m not saying that a kid plays the game and says, “Wow, this is so much fun, I think I’ll go whack someone.” What I’m saying is the images of the games are planted in the brain and acted on later. A premise, by the way, that is shared by a lot of social scientists.

Of course the video games are not the only cause of violent behavior and probably had little to do with the recent school shootings that have been perpetrated by older men. And I certainly can’t begin to explain why that man in Pennsylvania decided shooting Amish girls was the solution to his emotional problems. Those social scientists are still trying to come up with an explanation for that.

Out of that latest tragedy, however, has come one bright ray of hope for mankind. The day after the shootings, the family members of the girls who were shot forgave Carl Charles Roberts IV. What a powerful testimonial, and one does not have to be Christian to get it.

One of the elements of forgiveness is not to wish evil on the person who wronged us. We don’t have to love that person or embrace that person, simply step back and let go of the need for revenge. That’s a pretty good lesson for all of us, and I sure wish those radical Muslims would get it.

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