School shootings are not only correlated with or predicted by domestic violence; they are in themselves instances of domestic violence. These are not random acts, and we should stop responding to them as though they are.
The connection between domestic violence and mass shootings is well established. We know that many perpetrators of mass violence previously have victimized family members or have been victims themselves.
These parallels are clear and indisputable; what we’ve failed to seriously confront is that school shootings are not only correlated with or predicted by domestic violence; they are in themselves instances of domestic violence.
Columbine, Virginia Tech, Newtown, Parkland — in each of these cases, and in almost every other case of school shooting ever documented — the murderer was a student in or of the school. These are not random acts of violence, and we should stop responding to them as though they are.
Basically, we should begin treating school buildings like homes, rather than prisons or military encampments.
As someone who researches and writes about school environments that engender violence, I have lately been making the case that we need less school security rather than more. This claim seems to fly in the face of simple logic, but that’s because the “logic” currently being employed is far too simplistic for the topic it aims to address.
Perhaps the most compelling evidence, though, is this inescapable fact: The deadliest school violence in history has been perpetrated in the most secure school buildings in history.
What we’re doing isn’t working, and we need to explore other options.
When a deadly act of domestic violence occurs in a home, we understand that there is something sick and dysfunctional in the family dynamic. We recognize, often too late, that someone should have intervened. In better case scenarios, we are able to intervene before lives are lost. In the best case scenarios, we are able to intentionally build safe and healthy environments that protect against violence ever occurring.
What we DON’T do is suggest that all homes need intricate security systems or that we should arm family members with guns. To do the first seems pointless, since the violence is always an inside job to begin with; to do the latter creates a scenario in which accidental harm or death is almost certainly likely to occur, and probably at much higher rates than it does currently.
But look at our schools, and look at the headlines: We do both of these things in American schools and to American kids every single day.
Let’s continue the analogy: We know that violence can and does happen in a certain percentage of American homes. Therefore, perhaps we should make sure that every mom has a gun on her at all times. That should prevent the problem, right? Of course we know it won’t — the gun will be used against her, or she’ll try to use it for protection and shoot the wrong person, or, god-forbid, she’ll have one spectacularly bad day and use it on herself or someone else when she wasn’t even in danger.
But let’s assume that none of those things happen; let’s assume Mom is able to perfectly manage her gun every single day. Moms (and educators) are supposed to be the guides and protectors of children. If those people — the people who are intended to be the ultimate “safe place” — are given the license and ability to kill, isn’t the primary position — that of parent or teacher — irreparably compromised?
So let’s consider another option: Instead, we’ll post hired people — armed security guards — in every living room in America. THAT will keep the domestic violence from occurring.
It might, but it will also turn every home in America into a potential war zone — even homes that were healthy to begin with. When distrust, suspicion, and paranoia are institutionalized and allowed to fester, the institution begins to live up to the most horrifying potentials its structure predicts. This is what we are doing to our schools and our kids.
If we truly want to save them, we need to stop focusing on pointless and destructive knee-jerk responses that are ineffective and expensive. We need to instead get to work implementing programs such as Restorative Justice and others that actually work to create healthier communities. If we want our schools to give birth to productively engaged citizens, then we need to stop wasting time and money on systems that don’t work and instead start building them healthy “homes” in which to grow up.