When it happens, you don’t even realize it. Just a brief, surreal moment that could turn out to be a dream. You couldn’t see the horror coming. A booming sound comes from down the hallway that almost sounds as if a firework has been accidently set off. And then you see blood, yellow caution tape, paramedics with stretchers, cops with guns and handcuffs, and then, the horrifying discovery that your classmate has been shot by another classmate. You think to yourself, “What happened? What was this person thinking? True, he wasn’t the most popular kid in school…” And then a light bulb turns on. You realize the shooter was the victim of continuous bullying that sparked a dangerous and life-threatening but avoidable situation.
School violence is an unfortunately common issue that affects an average of five junior high schools, high schools and college campuses every year. The various reasons and causes of these tragic epidemics stem from many sources, particularly mental illness and bullying.
But despite its known correlation with violence in schools, bullying is one problem that is not discussed as much as it needs to be. Bullying, harassment and intimidation are linked to 75 percent of school shootings. This particular issue connected to school violence can often be ignored because of the victim’s fear or people’s own negligence.
In a 2011 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20 percent of students in grades nine through 12 reported being bullied within the grounds of their school, while 16 percent of the students reported being cyber-bullied. There are millions of children and teenagers who are bullied every year, yet these percentages only reflect the reported cases of bullying.
These statistics cover only reported cases, but it’s reasonable to suspect that the percentages are in fact much higher. The proportions may not seem incredibly large, but the problem still exists and will continue to exist unless serious actions are taken by the people who can create the most change, including school board representatives and higher-level government figures.
According to an article on PolicyMic.com, there have been 31 school shootings since the infamous Columbine High School Massacre in April 1999. Included within these horrific acts of mass murder is the Virginia Tech Massacre in 2007, which is the deadliest school shooting by a single gunman in United States history.
Virginia Tech was also an incident motivated by bullying. The shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, suffered a great deal of bullying from his high school classmates prior to attending Virginia Tech. Cho was constantly mocked and laughed at in high school because of his quiet nature, shyness and difficulty speaking English. This example alone is just one scenario out of many that have resulted in a tragedy that could have been prevented.
Cho’s unfortunate history of being bullied was a contributing factor to the grisly deeds committed six years ago. He, along with many other shooters, was abused and intimidated by cruelty and oppression. Aside from the humiliation, many quiet and shy students like Cho did not receive, and still don’t receive, enough help or guidance from teachers and other administrative staff. Even though Cho chose not to talk to a counselor, more of his past instructors should have recognized Cho’s unusually quiet behavior and lack of social aptitude in order to help him through the continuous bullying.
Being bullied and mocked by anybody creates a weakness within an individual—a loss of confidence so to speak. The longer the harassment lasts, the more of a toll it takes on one’s emotions and sense of self. The victim wants to regain some, if not all, of the control that was lost because of the horrendous treatment.
This is where violent and bloody vengeance comes into play. When someone is bullied, they are being victimized and tortured. Victims of bullying may experience physical harm and even death threats from their fellow peers. Unable to face humiliation forever, those bullied think of revenge, and those who caused the distress and torment among their victims are usually the ones that are placed on the shooter’s “hit list”. In the mind of the would-be shooter, taking the life of a bully takes away the bully’s power.
But even if those convicted of mass murder have been bullied, they should not be given more lenient sentences. Anybody can sympathize with a victim of bullying, but the actions taken were completely intentional and premeditated. Victims of bullying should have other outlets and resources to ease their fear and sadness. Teachers, guidance counselors and the people who witness bullying or are made aware of it must be the ones who direct the victims in the right direction. Control over one’s life due can be reclaimed through counseling and talking to a trusted individual. Even the victim talking directly to the bully can help regain control over the victim’s life.
Intending harm upon another is a permanent and detrimental solution to an avoidable and temporary problem. Revisiting the source of the shooter’s revenge—reclaiming control—can be resolved through healthier methods in order to cease bullying. The best resource is an adult. Unfortunately, people may not pick up on the warning signs of the victim’s pain until it is too late. In order to control the horror of bullying, teachers, parents, counselors, and other students need to express concern and compassion toward the victims of bullying, because the power of just one helping hand can be the difference between peace and tragedy.
One in seven students in Kindergarten through 12th grade has either been a bully or have been bullied. Considering that statistic alone, this is what we need to remember: bullying can happen anywhere, anytime, in any school, to any student. We must recognize the attacks early on, and intervene whenever possible. Just these actions alone can decrease the number of school shootings committed in the United States.