The Elephant In The Classroom

Remember the phrase “going postal?”

It may have  faded from widespread use in recent years, but back in the eighties and nineties, it meant “someone who’d been driven over the edge to insane, explosive violence”.  The term came from a series of massacres at post offices,n in the eighties and early nineties, including one in Edmond, Oklahoma that killed fifteen (including the shooter).   In a series of incidents fro 1983 to 1995, 43 were killed and 23 were wounded in fifteen separate instances at post offices.

The US Postal Service spent years, and millions, trying to figure out what the problem was, and endeavoring to make working for the Post Office less…psychotic-break-y.  The violence has subsided below “public punch line” levels – the phrase “going postal” has largely receded as a common idiom – although it hasn’t exactly stopped.

Anyway – the nation is currently focused on school school shootings…

…well, no.  The nation is focused on school shootings that happen in middle-class suburbs, with victims who look like the children of NPR executives.  Black and brown kids being mowed down on the streets of Detroit and their living rooms in Chicago and New Orleans, shot by mundane common criminals in episodes that illustrate the utter failure of Democrat center-left socialism, not so much.

But I digress.

Many of these episodes have one thing in common.  No, it’s not guns; it’s a kid – usually a boy, usually a boy who looks like the child of an NPR executive – who was picked on, bullied, rejected, ostracized, mellow-harshed, or otherwise tormented by someone, something, or some part or parts of the whole system.  Whatever the impetus, they get in their heads the need to take…it out on their school (as at Columbine and Parkland) or someone’s school anyway.  The profile has become borderline cliche;  a not-entirely mentally stable boy (like there’s such a thing as a stable teenager), bullied or shunned or otherwise marginalized, by others or even themselves, hatches a plan to get revenge on their tormentors – which often as not means “everyone at school”.

And while it’s not always big suburban public schools – Erik Weise killed nine in and around the Red Lake Reservation school in a shooting whose 13th anniversary passed yesterday – it’d be hard to miss a correlation with shootings at schools in the ‘burbs, like Columbine and Parkland (and Sandy Hook, although Adam Lanza was just plain insane across the board), and even big amalgamated rural schools (John Jason McLaughlin, who killed two at Cold Spring/Rocori, one of the big schools created by amalgamating several rural town schools together).

It’d also be hard to miss what it’s not:   parochial schools, charter schools, schools tightly rooted in communities (civic, faith, educational or any other) big or small.

So – what is it about American middle-class schools that creates spree killers?

Doesn’t our education system have at least the same obligation to analyze itself as the Postal Service did?


17 thoughts on “The Elephant In The Classroom

  1. If the potential for violence was that easy to spot, there would be far fewer dead people.

  2. As a former LEO, I can say that we do a pretty good job of finding aspiring spree killers in the planning stage. We can, of course, do better. I’ve long advocated for public service announcements which describe the planning stages and what to do when such a profile is detected. In the case of Stoneman-Douglass, the community did what was required. Four levels of law enforcement plus the school and school district failed them. People should be fired for such stupidity.

  3. As a former LEO, I can say that we do a pretty good job of finding aspiring spree killers in the planning stage. We can, of course, do better. I’ve long advocated for public service announcements which describe the planning stages and what to do when such a profile is detected. In the case of Stoneman-Douglass, the community did what was required. Four levels of law enforcement plus the school and school district failed them. People should be fired for such stupidity.

  4. If the potential for violence was that easy to spot

    This isn’t about spotting potential.

    This is about responding to a correlation: young, bullied/tormented/mentally unstable males in dysfunctional factory schools. Why do they seem to together like horse and carriage?

  5. I don’t see Mitch’s question focusing on finding the individuals likely to “go postal” as much as focusing on the conditions that cause people trapped inside the system to “go postal.”

    For example, if the Post office gives veterans bonus points on the civil service exam, then they’re likely to hire a lot of veterans. If veterans have post-traumatic stress disorder at higher rates than civilians, then the Post Office workforce will eventually become PTSD-intensive. If PTSD employees are subjected to stressful working conditions, they may be more likely to have a negative reaction which is generally suicide but could be a violent outburst.

    Can’t stop giving the points. Can’t refuse to hire PTSD vets. But maybe we can restructure hours of operation, delivery routes, work routines, sit-stand work stations, improve lighting and ventilation, re-train supervisors, reshuffle production quotas, acquire better technology . . . things that would reduce the stress for all employees in the workplace and thereby reduce the likelihood of suicide and gunfire?

    Now apply that style of thinking to students in public schools. What changes could we make that might reduce the stress on students and thereby reduce the likelihood of suicide and gunfire?

  6. Why no mass shootings in private schools?
    Parents have a lot more invested in a private school kid. Over $10k/year per kid where I live. That speaks to greater parental involvement. A second factor is that a looney kid will be expelled by a private school. If he started acting out to the point where expulsion was threatened, there would likely be an intervention by school staff + parents.
    It is hard to believe that Cruz would have been allowed to deteriorate as much as he did in a private school environment. He would either be expelled or forced into psychiatric treatment.

  7. Boys are kinetic, hands-on learners, generally, and they are impulsive with undeveloped if/then filters. Leave a piece of equipment in the room with my 7 and 4 year old grandsons, and when you come back it will be dismantled. This type of behavior is not conducive to government factory schools, and makes boys the prime targets for doping by their schools to prepare them for a degree in “sitting still”, I suppose. Of course, when they go off their meds, a certain percentage of these boys will be even worse off, as we’ve seen too often. This isn’t new information I’m sharing.

    What i’m becoming curious about, and would like to see studied, is how many of these middle-aged white males committing suicide in the west and mid-west – who would have been elementary-school students in the late 60s and the 70s – were doped the gills as students? Lack of higher education, and a tendency for lower income jobs and/or underemployment appear to be factors in the mortality rates. How many of these men taking their lives today were taking school-administered drugs 40 years ago?

  8. I apologize to Willis Eschenbach and his excellent blog Skating Under The Ice for quoting a tad more than fair use – but this needs to be said.

    It speaks to the question: “So – what is it about American middle-class schools that creates spree killers?”

    • Eric Harris age 17 (first on Zoloft then Luvox) and Dylan Klebold aged 18 (Columbine school shooting in Littleton, Colorado), killed 12 students and 1 teacher, and wounded 23 others, before killing themselves. Klebold’s medical records have never been made available to the public.

    • Jeff Weise, age 16, had been prescribed 60 mg/day of Prozac (three times the average starting dose for adults!) when he shot his grandfather, his grandfather’s girlfriend and many fellow students at Red Lake, Minnesota. He then shot himself. 10 dead, 12 wounded.

    • Cory Baadsgaard, age 16, Wahluke (Washington state) High School, was on Paxil (which caused him to have hallucinations) when he took a rifle to his high school and held 23 classmates hostage. He has no memory of the event.

    • Chris Fetters, age 13, killed his favorite aunt while taking Prozac.

    • Christopher Pittman, age 12, murdered both his grandparents while taking Zoloft.

    • Mathew Miller, age 13, hung himself in his bedroom closet after taking Zoloft for 6 days.

    • Kip Kinkel, age 15, (on Prozac and Ritalin) shot his parents while they slept then went to school and opened fire killing 2 classmates and injuring 22 shortly after beginning Prozac treatment.

    • Luke Woodham, age 16 (Prozac) killed his mother and then killed two students, wounding six others.

    • A boy in Pocatello, ID (Zoloft) in 1998 had a Zoloft-induced seizure that caused an armed stand off at his school.

    • Michael Carneal (Ritalin), age 14, opened fire on students at a high school prayer meeting in West Paducah, Kentucky. Three teenagers were killed, five others were wounded..

    • A young man in Huntsville, Alabama (Ritalin) went psychotic chopping up his parents with an ax and also killing one sibling and almost murdering another.

    • Andrew Golden, age 11, (Ritalin) and Mitchell Johnson, aged 14, (Ritalin) shot 15 people, killing four students, one teacher, and wounding 10 others.

    • TJ Solomon, age 15, (Ritalin) high school student in Conyers, Georgia opened fire on and wounded six of his class mates.

    • Rod Mathews, age 14, (Ritalin) beat a classmate to death with a bat.

    • James Wilson, age 19, (various psychiatric drugs) from Breenwood, South Carolina, took a .22 caliber revolver into an elementary school killing two young girls, and wounding seven other children and two teachers.

    • Elizabeth Bush, age 13, (Paxil) was responsible for a school shooting in Pennsylvania

    • Jason Hoffman (Effexor and Celexa) – school shooting in El Cajon, California

    • Jarred Viktor, age 15, (Paxil), after five days on Paxil he stabbed his grandmother 61 times.

    • Chris Shanahan, age 15 (Paxil) in Rigby, ID who out of the blue killed a woman.

    • Jeff Franklin (Prozac and Ritalin), Huntsville, AL, killed his parents as they came home from work using a sledge hammer, hatchet, butcher knife and mechanic’s file, then attacked his younger brothers and sister.

    • Neal Furrow (Prozac) in LA Jewish school shooting reported to have been court-ordered to be on Prozac along with several other medications.

    • Kevin Rider, age 14, was withdrawing from Prozac when he died from a gunshot wound to his head. Initially it was ruled a suicide, but two years later, the investigation into his death was opened as a possible homicide. The prime suspect, also age 14, had been taking Zoloft and other SSRI antidepressants.

    • Alex Kim, age 13, hung himself shortly after his Lexapro prescription had been doubled.

    • Diane Routhier was prescribed Welbutrin for gallstone problems. Six days later, after suffering many adverse effects of the drug, she shot herself.

    • Billy Willkomm, an accomplished wrestler and a University of Florida student, was prescribed Prozac at the age of 17. His family found him dead of suicide – hanging from a tall ladder at the family’s Gulf Shore Boulevard home in July 2002.

    • Kara Jaye Anne Fuller-Otter, age 12, was on Paxil when she hung herself from a hook in her closet. Kara’s parents said “…. the damn doctor wouldn’t take her off it and I asked him to when we went in on the second visit. I told him I thought she was having some sort of reaction to Paxil…”)

    • Gareth Christian, Vancouver, age 18, was on Paxil when he committed suicide in 2002, (Gareth’s father could not accept his son’s death and killed himself.)

    • Julie Woodward, age 17, was on Zoloft when she hung herself in her family’s detached garage.

    • Matthew Miller was 13 when he saw a psychiatrist because he was having difficulty at school. The psychiatrist gave him samples of Zoloft. Seven days later his mother found him dead, hanging by a belt from a laundry hook in his closet.

    • Kurt Danysh, age 18, and on Prozac, killed his father with a shotgun. He is now behind prison bars, and writes letters, trying to warn the world that SSRI drugs can kill.

    • Woody __, age 37, committed suicide while in his 5th week of taking Zoloft. Shortly before his death his physician suggested doubling the dose of the drug. He had seen his physician only for insomnia. He had never been depressed, nor did he have any history of any mental illness symptoms.

    • A boy from Houston, age 10, shot and killed his father after his Prozac dosage was increased.

    • Hammad Memon, age 15, shot and killed a fellow middle school student. He had been diagnosed with ADHD and depression and was taking Zoloft and “other drugs for the conditions.”

    • Matti Saari, a 22-year-old culinary student, shot and killed 9 students and a teacher, and wounded another student, before killing himself. Saari was taking an SSRI and a benzodiazapine.

    • Steven Kazmierczak, age 27, shot and killed five people and wounded 21 others before killing himself in a Northern Illinois University auditorium. According to his girlfriend, he had recently been taking Prozac, Xanax and Ambien. Toxicology results showed that he still had trace amounts of Xanax in his system.

    • Finnish gunman Pekka-Eric Auvinen, age 18, had been taking antidepressants before he killed eight people and wounded a dozen more at Jokela High School – then he committed suicide.

    • Asa Coon from Cleveland, age 14, shot and wounded four before taking his own life. Court records show Coon was on Trazodone.

    • Jon Romano, age 16, on medication for depression, fired a shotgun at a teacher in his New York high school.


  9. That list of killers and their prescriptions can be traced back to a John Noveske according to the various sites that used it. I wish there was a way to check it’s authenticity.

  10. Same here.

    I’ve heard – but can’t remember where – some questions about the list.

    I’m also loathe to accept panacaeas – or, I guess, anti-panacaeas, in this case.

  11. Peter Hitchens has been banging this drum for years, especially with respect to Islamic terrorist attacks — Hitchens believes that many if not all Islamic terrorists take powerful psychotropic drugs before they begin their attacks.
    His blog in the UK Mail is worth a read. Hitchens is a sort of ultra-Tory, a small Englander, and he is not terribly fond of the United States.

  12. Pingback: In The Mailbox: 03.22.18 : The Other McCain

  13. I cannot vouch for accuracy of the list. It could be fake news, it could be real. I should have mentioned that. Sometimes things just seem to true to check. (not good)

  14. Greg,

    whether the list is accurate or not, it speaks to my point: what is it about schools that creates depressed, mentally ill, too-frequently suicidal, sometimes homicidal kids?

  15. what is it about schools that creates depressed, mentally ill, too-frequently suicidal, sometimes homicidal boys?

    Fixed it for you. Not to overlook the non-boys who should quite obviously be nurtured and cherished and favored to the point that it creates depressed, mentally ill, too-frequently suicidal, sometimes homicidal boys… hey…

  16. Is it school that creates mental illness, or a sucky home life? I think we need a few more working hypotheses to test.

    For reference, I am aware of some studies that do attempt to track the lethality of taking psychotropics vs. not taking them, and I believe that the current consensus is that properly administered, they actually decrease it. On the flip side, I’ve heard conspiracy guys (yes, I know) claim that Eli Lilly has a fund for paying off Prozac issues. I would dare suggest that a good look at the data–what portion of school shootings involve SSRIs or other drugs, etc..–would be in order.

    But primarily, that first question. What makes these kids lose it to the point they “need” these drugs? Or are they over prescribed? Did the kids that did this meet DSM criteria, etc..

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