The shocking and tragic shootings at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech University, and the recent one at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, have all led school officials to ask such questions as “How could this have happened at our school?” and “Could we have prevented this tragedy?” Many school administrators, teachers and scholarly experts have said that these tragedies could have been avoided. Did we “drop the ball” on these shooters? What indicators might be most important in determining whether a student is experiencing a psychological disorder?
To piggyback on my questions above to the Tucson assassination attempt, Pima Community College in Arizona did take control and suspended Jared Loughner due to his erratic behavior. Math professor Benjamin McGahee who had Loughner in his algebra class last fall quarter was quoted as stating “On the surface, at first, he seemed like a normal guy, until he started making some disruptive comments that were pretty random and senseless…he started making students feel uncomfortable from the first day of class (Time, January 24, 2012). The community college administrators ended up suspending Loughner, stating that he could not come back until he had certification from a mental health professional that he was not dangerous. On January 8th of last year, Loughner showed up to a political gathering and ended up killing 6 people, injuring 13 others (including Representative Gabrielle Giffords). To this day, he still has not shown any remorse in his actions and he was just recently sentenced to life in prison.
We also know that Adam Lanza, the 20-year old, who killed his mother, 20 first graders and 6 staff members at Sandy Hook elementary school, suffered from a personality disorder. He was described as a socially awkward person who did not have any close friends.
In addition, what about the mental state of James Holmes, who was a former neuroscience graduate student at the University of Colorado? Holmes told his psychiatrist about “killing a lot of people” and his psychiatrist decided NOT to have law enforcement officers put him on a psychiatric hold (i.e., hospitalization for a mental evaluation). Six weeks later, he ended up killing 12 people and injuring many others who showed up to the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
To what degree is it the responsibility of the students’ peers, parents, teachers, counselors, psychiatrists, or administrators to pick-up” the signs of a troubled student, so he/she does not “slip through the cracks?” Should there be follow up form the school administrators for suspended students such as Loughner? Should there be follow-up from the psychiatrist for recognizing “danger” signs from James Holmes? Were there warning signs that Adam Lanza was a “ticking time bomb” ready to go off? Or is it the troubled individual’s responsibility to seek out professional help for himself/herself? Can cultural influences play a role? What do we need to do on our school campuses and in our communities to prevent such tragedies in the future?
Your answer should be approximately 1/2 page, single spaced. Your response to a peer’s answer should be approximately 1/2 page, single spaced.