It Happens Every Day

Paula LabrotBy Paula Labrot

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“It is not for us to know those times, when people are wide open, and the lightest touch may wither or heal.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald By Paula LaBrot In a world where all things are connected, there exist, ironically, profound problems of disconnection. Some of these problems have manifested themselves in a brutal series of shootings that have become a glaringly American phenomenon. This type of violent tragedy exists globally, it is true, but nowhere are these attacks more prevalent than in the United States. The years between the shootings at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, right up through the Uvalde tragedy, have been decades of soul-shocking horrors that must come to an end. Following these tragedies, the finger-pointing and fundraising is driving me crazy. Nothing concrete has been accomplished. What has been done has not worked. Let’s look at the history and data of these mass killings and see if we, as an historically intelligent, tolerant community, can use facts to come up with some effective solutions together. A Little History The FBI defines a mass shooting as one in which at least three to four people are killed in a public area, excluding the perpetrator. According to the World Population Review, “Few topics of discussion can evoke a more passionate (or politically charged) emotional reaction than the subject of mass shootings.” The highly polarized subject creates a firestorm around issues of gun control. But the actual history of attacks that claim the lives of so many innocent people tells us there is much more to look at, if we want to solve this terrible problem and we have to get down to doing just that. 1999 was the seminal year for the current wave of mass shootings when two twelfth grade students murdered twelve students and one teacher and wounded 24 other people at Columbine High School. Eric Harris, a psychopathic manipulator, and Dylan Klebold, a lonely depressive, had planted several bombs in the library and gone to their car to wait while the bombs exploded, which, fortunately, they didn’t or many more students and teachers would have been killed. The boys returned to the school library and started killing people. Thus began an unbearable list of school attacks. In fact, Columbine has often been studied and used as a model by subsequent killers. School shootings come in clusters and are socially contagious. A predominant number of attacks occur toward the end of a school year. The worst school shooting to date in terms of numbers took place eight years after Columbine in 2007 at Virginia Tech University where the delusional, possibly schizophrenic/bipolar Seung-Hui Cho slaughtered 32 students, claiming to have been inspired by Harris and Klebold. On Dec. 14, 2012, twenty-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Twenty of the victims were children between six and seven. The Connecticut State’s Attorney released a report noting that Lanza had “significant mental health issues that affected his ability to live a normal life and to interact with others.” However, mental-health professionals who had worked with him “did not see anything that would have predicted his future behavior,” according to the report. The Profile You’ll find school shooters come from all walks of life, all socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds, all areas of the country, and having all kinds of mental conditions. Is there a profile? Barely. There are a few things the killers have in common: They are almost always male from teens to late twenties. (Girls tend to bully people and slaughter people’s reputations at school and online, one victim at a time.) They may have chaotic, sometimes fatherless home-lives or neglectful parenting and have access to parents’ firearms. They have attempted or thought about attempting suicide. They meticulously plan their attack in advance, often creating manifestos or violent illustrations. They usually have some relationship with the school they attack. They carry deep feelings of resentment. They drop warnings of their intentions to at least one person in advance of the attack or on social media. They often hurt/kill someone close to them first before proceeding to their target. They plan to die. Proactive Prevention I interviewed a young man who is almost twenty for this article. I asked when and where he had been exposed to drugs and porn. Junior High School. Online with “friends.’ Jr. High is a target we should focus on. That is the time children who have played together all through elementary school start going their separate ways. Some toward the light, some toward the dark. It’s a confusing time for parents who are friends with other parents when their children stop wanting to play together. Pay attention. There is a reason. We have to find the potential problems early. WE!! All of us…together! Because once a child becomes a killer, no matter how much we ache for their lost innocence, they are what they are. And that is…very dangerous. According to Glenn Doyle Melton of, a wonderful math teacher does this: Every Friday afternoon, she asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student whom they believe has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her. Every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, she takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her, and studies them. She looks for patterns. Who is not getting requested by anyone else? Who can’t think of anyone to request? Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated? Who had a million friends last week and none this week? You see, the teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” She is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down—right away—who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying. She is working to keep children connected. Check out this 7-minute video: “I Was Almost A School Shooter-TEDxBoulder,” then you may want to watch your kid’s internet and gaming activities, limit screen time.” Tik Tok had a viral challenge, “Shoot Up Your School Day,” causing many school closings this year, as well as challenges to attack Orthodox Jews. Tik Tok’s “school vandalism challenge” brought flooded hallways and bathrooms. Drug challenges brought death. Protect children from media violence. Find mentors and role models for the fatherless. Take your child’s feelings and behavior seriously. Shield your child’s innocence as long as you can. Be a good example. Be kind. Remember, the opposite side of this coin is suicide. Young men are dying in droves by their own hands. We have to work wide on this problem. Please send any suggestions or stories you have for early intervention to the editor ( Vamos a ver!
Paula Labrot

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JUNE 10, 2022

Topanga Days 2022