Youth and Violence: The Case of Rampage School Shootings

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Anne NASSAUER, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
On March 24, 1998, two boys, 11 and 13 years old, ring the fire alarm at their middle school in Arkansas, USA. When their fellow schoolmates come running outside, they open fire, killing five and wounding ten. Many rampage school shootings have happened since – from Columbine, USA, in 1999 to Winnenden, Germany, in 2009. Events like the Arkansas Middle School shooting occupy media, public discourse, and politics. How and why do youths choose to go on a rampage against their fellow classmates? Why do these cases of youth violence cluster along some countries, like the US? What do they tell us about today’s youth? And what can parents, educators, the community, and policy makers do to prevent school shootings?

Rampage school shootings are a drastic form of youth violence. They are thus seen as the epitome of cruelty and an indicator of youths’ enjoyment of brutality – as a placeholder for everything that is going wrong with today’s youth. This paper presents my comparative analysis of 30 rampage school shootings. I analyzed in particular the role of combinations of factors leading kids to commit such shootings (such as dysfunctional families, marginalization, and bullying in school), specific youth cultures, the relevance of aspired media fame, and easy gun access. Comparisons show that next to these factors, many perpetrators felt they were stuck in a no exit situation: a situation in life that they desperately tried to get out of, like a violent parent coming back home from prison, sexually abusive relatives, or the prospect of being sent to a foster home or boot camp. My presentation will discuss findings on the emergence and prevention of rampage school shootings and examine how their analysis can inform youth sociology.