kitchen table math, the sequel: only in suburban and rural schools

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

only in suburban and rural schools

I came across this factoid last night:
School rampage shootings are rare events that have occurred in middle-class and affluent rural and suburban schools, but they are not found in inner-city schools.
Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence
This finding has nothing to do with the mistaken belief that mass murderers are white, by the way. Mass murderers come from all races, and the people who attacked schools between 1974 and 1999 were 75% white.

I've just barely skimmed the section of Deadly Lessons that discusses the absence of mass shootings in inner-city schools, so I'm not sure how they explain this (if they do). It sounds to me as if they offer a hypothesis that the social organization of students may explain the difference -- and that the social organization is 'naturally' different in rural/suburban schools versus inner-city schools in a way that may not be easy to counter.

It's also the case that people with incomes below $30K a year have the lowest rate of gun ownership: 30% of homes as opposed to 38% for $30-$50K and 43% for $50K-100K.

In the words of the Secret Service report, "Most attackers had access to and had used weapons prior to the attack," I assume it's possible that the explanation is no more complicated than the fact that more affluent people buy more guns. (Any thoughts?)

I'm also wondering whether 'targeted school violence' ever happens in parochial schools.

Do we know?


Anonymous said...

I noticed that long ago. Having a little bit of experience with an inner-city school in a wretched neighborhood (frequent lockdowns due to shootings nearby, for instance), I can't really explain it. I have thought a lot about it though.

Yes, for one, while these kids could likely get their hands on a handgun, they wouldn't have been able to get their hands on fancy automatic weapons with huge magazines capable of wiping out classroomsful.

While they were often angry, often enraged, often depressed, often traumatized, they weren't planners. Or maybe it's because they lived their lives in that state, they couldn't plan. They didn't dwell on last month's issues, they were caught up in today's. There were too many issues to nurse along multiple grudges. You concentrated on today's problems and fought with the person in front of you, not with random strangers.

MANY of the kids had seen violence up close and likely all had seen its direct effects. They all had a relative at least as close as a cousin or aunt and uncle who had been shot, knifed, or otherwise victimized. I knew of at least a few who had seen relatives shot or stabbed in front of them. Their neighbors were killed, their friends, shootings were commonplace. Children also died regularly in horrifying house fires for a string of years. (One teacher I knew had lost 10 children she'd taught to fires -- 5 in one fire).

I almost see the mass shootings as an outward expression of the more inward directed "self-cutting" -- it's a way to make public your feelings, to make people feel as badly as you do, to show your feelings rather than feel them.

For many of these kids, everyone in their lives feels as badly as they do, is as angry, as run-down, as sick and tired as they are. It's expressed, it's unhealthy, but they've got this one small advantage (?) that while they are FAR, FAR more likely to die a violent (and early) death, it's unlikely to happen as part of an impersonal mass shooting.

I think most people would rather take their odds of a random mass shooting happening to them than to lead their lives though.

Catherine Johnson said...

Gosh ---- that is an incredible account.

I'm so glad you posted .... because it jibes with thoughts I've been having, or questions in my mind, rather, about how 'real' the consequences of this action were to Adam Lanza ---- I forget when that idea first crossed my mind ....

Catherine Johnson said...

I hope some of the math people will weigh in on these figures.

ChemProf said...

Just a note -- none of the recent school shooters had automatic weapons. They had semi-automatic rifles or handguns, which means a weapon that fires once per trigger pull. An AR-15 is styled like an automatic military rifle, but is not an automatic weapon.

But I do think that there might be some similarity to cutting -- making your feelings visible, and really "feeling" something. Of course, that may also link to SSRIs which can damp down feelings in some kids, making them seek out stronger inputs.

Anonymous said...

I think there is also an issue about society's perceived value of the victims. If you want to make a big stir, you shoot a lot of people who are perceived to have high value to mainstream society.

palisadesk said...

. If you want to make a big stir, you shoot a lot of people who are perceived to have high value to mainstream society

Sadly, I think this is true, and it occurred to me while following the events in the media. Would the outcry have been so great, or the press coverage so intensive and international, had a similar incident occurred in deepest Appalachia or inner-city Detroit?

I'm willing to bet not.

The correlation to class and income also rings true in my experience. I've been almost exclusively in low-SES, inner-city schools which are situated in neighborhoods where a lot of violence takes place. Yet, there is little or none in the schools (even the middle schools) I've worked in. A very few cases, non involving guns, has to do with adolescents with serious mental health issues. I've never felt personally threatened or at risk in the workplace and in fact have not even experienced students being rude to me.

Some years back, after Columbine I think, I read an interesting book by a Canadian sociologist entitled Hunting Humans: The Rise of the Modern Multiple Murderer.

One of his key finding was that these mass murderers (and most serial killers) were middle-class, or aspired to be middle class and felt excluded, and that they selected middle-class victims to vent their rage at perceived inequities.

ChemProf said...

As pure speculation, I wonder if the perception of schools is also different in these communities. If in a low-SES area, the school is seen as a refuge, then it isn't likely to be a target. But if the school seems like a prison or a place to be tormented, then the school can be a focus of rage, and that is more likely in suburban/rural communities where some students feel like they are forced to be there, by parents or society or whatever.