91 of 121 DOCUMENTS

	The Boston Globe

	March 11, 2001, Sunday ,THIRD EDITION

	SOCIETY James Alan Fox is the Lipman Family Professor of Criminal
	Justice and Jack Levin is the Brudnick Professor of Sociology and
	Criminology, both at Northeastern University. They recently
	coauthored "The Will to Kill: Making Sense of Senseless Murder.";

	BYLINE: By James Alan Fox, and Jack Levin


	LENGTH: 1162 words

	Safety once again eclipsed scholarship as the issue in America's
	schools last week. In Santee, Calif., Monday, a 15-year-old boy
	brought a gun to school and killed two schoolmates and wounded 13
	people. In Williamsport, Pa., Wednesday, a 14-year-old girl at a
	parochial school shot an eighth-grade classmate. 
	Coincidence?  Hardly. These are just the latest in a string of
	copycat shootings, reflecting an insidious contagion of schoolyard
	Oddly, well-intentioned efforts to reduce school shootings may
	actually be having the unintended effect of encouraging some
	students to take up guns against classmates.
	More and more students must pass through metal detectors and
	security cameras at school entrances. Then they encounter security
	guards posted in the corridors. They are alerted to the warning
	signs of violence and reminded to look out for anyone uttering a
	threat. They watch televised public service announcements
	depicting scared youngsters pleading with their schoolmates to
	behave, and - perhaps most powerful - news programs replaying
	scenes of bloodshed and carnage in the aftermath of the latest
	school massacre. 
	Not only do these images keep school violence fresh in everyone's
	minds, they confirm the idea that angry students resolve their
	problems with a gun. Violence against classmates has become, if
	not an accepted way, at least a familiar way to solve problems.
	The attention we pay it only reinforces that notion. 
	The contagion of school shootings has been with us for five years.
	It began on Feb. 2, 1996, in the sleepy town of Moses Lake, Wash.
	Barry Loukaitis, a 14-year-old student at Frontier Junior High,
	ended his deadly assault on two classmates and a math teacher with
	a caustic remark, "This sure beats algebra, doesn't it?" The line
	came straight from his favorite Stephen King fiction story about a
	school massacre. 
	Without intending to be a trendsetter, Loukaitis sparked a string
	of multiple murders that included tragic episodes in such unlikely
	places as West Paducah, Ky.; Pearl, Miss.; Jonesboro, Ark.;
	Springfield, Ore.; Littleton, Colo.; and now Santee - communities
	hardly known for violence. 
	Notwithstanding these episodes, it's important to remember that
	America's schools are extremely safe.  The risk of violence in
	classrooms is less than in playgrounds, neighborhoods, or at the
	local mall. 
	The problem of school homicide is not new, but its form and
	visibility have changed dramatically. School homicides committed
	by teenagers a decade ago were isolated cases of mostly one-on-one
	attacks. In the 1992-'93 and 1993-'94 school years combined, for
	example, 99 students and teachers were killed in 97 episodes.
	Those single-victim incidents attracted little outside attention.
	They certainly didn't make the national news or the cover of
	popular magazines. 
	Today, school homicide often involves a multiple shooting in which
	many students are killed or wounded. In the 1997-'98 and 1998-'99
	school years, there were 65 people murdered and many more wounded
	in 35 incidents. Because of the scope of their carnage, such
	episodes are guaranteed widespread publicity at the national
	Twenty years ago, a teenager might have imitated the behavior of
	kids down the block, or in his class; now, because of pervasive
	national media fixation on violence, he is more likely to be
	inspired by what happens in far-away Pearl, Jonesboro, or
	The process of imitation determines the timing and the form of
	subsequent crimes - that is, it assures that the next massacre
	will also happen at a school, that the perpetrator will also use a
	gun, and that he will also attempt to kill numerous people in an
	indiscriminate fashion. 
	The copycat effect even helps influence the race and hometown of
	the next perpetrator, who is likely to resemble the personal
	characteristics of previous shooters - hence, the predominance of
	white teenage boys in suburbs and small towns. 
	It is not only exposure to massive media coverage that encourages
	copycats. More important, it is the notoriety we give to killers
	that teaches our youngsters - especially alienated and
	marginalized teenagers - a lesson about how to get attention, how
	to be in the spotlight. 
	The message they hear is: "Want to be noticed? Want to feel
	important? Simple.  Shoot lots of your classmates. Then, you'll be
	on the cover of People magazine, you will be interviewed by
	'20/20,' you will make the headlines all over the nation, if not
	the world!" Some alienated youngsters even come to view school
	snipers as heroes; after all, they had the guts to strike back
	against the bullies and mean-spirited teachers - and were made
	famous for it.
	Teenagers, especially boys, have always sought to be the first on
	their block to try out a new fad. In the 1930s, they were
	swallowing goldfish. In the '50s and '60s, they went on panty
	raids and tried cramming themselves and all their friends into
	phone booths and Volkswagen Beetles. School shootings represent a
	deadly version of the same phenomenon. 
	In many respects, the problems students face today are no
	different than earlier generations'. There have been schoolyard
	bullies as long as there have been schools; there has been
	adolescent alienation as long as there have been teenagers. 
	Earlier generations of disgruntled and dispirited youngsters
	responded in less violent ways. They may have conceived of some
	silly prank to get even, or picked up a rock and smashed some
	windows. But the idea of opening fire on their classmates would
	never have crossed their minds. Today, the image is never far from
	their consciousness. The seed has been planted in their
	imaginations, and we keep it well watered. 
	Of course, most students who are exposed to images of school
	violence will not re-create the crime, no matter how badly they
	are treated. The overwhelming majority of America's schoolchildren
	identify with the pain and suffering of the victims. But an angry
	few identify instead with the perpetrators and model the violence
	their heroes have used to even the score. 
	No one is suggesting we ignore the problem of school violence.
	Rather, we must learn to respond without gratuitously calling so
	much direct attention to it. One way is to change the fact that
	too many children go unsupervised, and that too many are bullied,
	harassed, and teased by other students. 
	We can also strive to make our schools less impersonal. Many
	troubled youngsters are nameless faces to teachers, guidance
	counselors, and school psychologists whose huge caseloads in
	oversized schools simply do not permit them to get to know their
	students as individuals. 
	Rather than giving over so much of our attention during prime time
	or school time to reminding children of recent classroom
	tragedies, we should be doing more to enhance the quality of life
	and learning for all of our students. 
	The contagion of school shootings, like other fads, will dissipate
	eventually, but only if we let it.

	LOAD-DATE: March 12, 2001


	GRAPHIC: PHOTO, 1.A nurse consoles a Santana student, left, in
	Santee, Calif., Monday. / REUTERS PHOTO 2. Charles Andrew Williams
	and one of his lawyers, Randy Mize, were in court Wednesday in El
	Cajon, Calif., for Williams's arraignment on murder charges. The
	arraignment was continued. / AFP PHOTO

	Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company