“School” Violence

CBP Office of Air and Marine Pilots participate in an Active Shooter Scenario at an NATC facility to learn how to safely interact with other law enforcement communities in a dynamic enviroment to protect citizens and neutralize threats in a school based situation. Students and instructors move thru an abandoned school checking the role playing bad guy while training for the Active Shooter Scenario making sure to wear important safety equipment. Photo by James Tourtellotte

Troubling incidents of school-related violence rattled two communities yesterday. In Rigby, Idaho, a sixth-grader allegedly pulled a handgun out of her backpack and started shooting in a hallway, injuring two fellow students and an adult. The district superintendent said an event like this is the “worst nightmare a school system can face.” In Columbia, South Carolina, a Fort Jackson trainee is in custody after allegedly hijacking a school bus full of students on its way to an elementary school. According to video and the sheriff, the suspect boarded the bus, held a rifle to the driver and told him to drive to the next town. The 18 children on board and the driver weren’t hurt. The suspect faces kidnapping, armed robbery, carjacking and other charges. -CNN’s ‘5 Things’

The summary paragraph shows off the continued obfuscation of violence for emotional political leverage. And I, for one, am just… tired of it. I am tired of seeing a violent action appropriated as something it wasn’t for a cheap opinion win… But they wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t effective, so here we are… again.

The first incident is a fully accurate portrayal of ‘School Violence’, meaning violence which involves the school participants and actively associated individuals, with the school as part of the active context of the event. A student bringing a gun to school and starts shooting because of ________ reason is school violence. A teacher bringing a firearm to school and shooting a co-worker would be school violence. A super-intendent or school board member planting an explosive would be school violence.

In Rigby, Idaho, a sixth-grader allegedly pulled a handgun out of her backpack and started shooting in a hallway, injuring two fellow students and an adult. The district superintendent said an event like this is the “worst nightmare a school system can face.”

For it to be ‘School Violence’ the school must be an active element of the involved context, generally it is the central location linking victim(s) and perpetrator(s). It is a linking setting. It is part of the reason. It is not merely a location or piece of property based upon opportunity. In the incident cited above, the school is the setting, students and staff are the deliberate targets for some form of violent retribution. Most school violence is retributive in nature, the rarer times it isn’t usually are because the school is a vulnerable location with a lot of emotional pull. In short, terrorism. I would go so far as to argue that terrorism is also not ‘School Violence’ unless the terrorist(s) are associated with the school and use it as part of their political statement or retributive act (as in Bath, MI).

The second incident, the busjacking, was not ‘School Violence’.

Certainly it involved students, a staff member, and school property. Namely 18 students, a driver, and the bus they were on. However, the fact that these were students of a school, that the driver was an employee of the school, and that a bus is an extension of the school environment were not significant factors in why the bus was accosted by the trainee from Fort Jackson. The trainee had no active connection to the school, no vendetta against any of the students or staff, and didn’t deliver any retributive violence with the school as a linking setting.

In Columbia, South Carolina, a Fort Jackson trainee is in custody after allegedly hijacking a school bus full of students on its way to an elementary school. According to video and the sheriff, the suspect boarded the bus, held a rifle to the driver and told him to drive to the next town. The 18 children on board and the driver weren’t hurt. The suspect faces kidnapping, armed robbery, carjacking and other charges.

The school bus was a means of transportation, and happened to be the one the trainee with the empty rifle got ahold of.

It was a carjacking and escape attempt from… work. The trainee ran away from a paying job where, for the designated several weeks, life is purposefully stressful in a controlled manner. The trainee took an empty rifle from their job in order to facilitate their escape. In South Carolina, the trainee is fairly fortunate to have not run into somebody carrying a firearm. They would’ve been well within their rights to resist the carjacking trainee with force. The trainee gets to go to prison, instead of the hospital and then prison, or the morgue.

Military basic is stressful, on purpose, and it is meant to stress inoculate the trainees while developing them into drillable soldiers. A troop, properly trained, should be able to be dropped into and trained up on most military systems and become effective in their use because of this basic training foundation and the applied supervision of expert leadership.

This obviously works perfectly as a concept and less than perfectly when people get involved.

But back to the topic. School Violence.

This busjacking wasn’t ‘School Violence’, the context didn’t involve the school beyond the convenience of the bus. The school had no setting and no role in the incident. The contributing factor to the students’ and driver’s involvement was that they were on a bus that could get the trainee away. He attempted to accost other vehicles prior to getting the bus. Nothing about it being a school bus was a crucial element to why the bus was targeted and everything about the fact it was a bus, and could therefore go places, was crucial.

We must be detailed in our observation of violent events. We must catalogue motivations to understand the precursor factors to the choice of violence. Hauling this event under the label of ‘school violence’ simply because it was violence that happened to involve school property, staff, and students, without the school being a focal element is just hollowly inflating the problem for cheap ‘we must do something/more’ points. It does nothing to further and much to hinder tackling actual school violence involving conflicts between students and staff.

It’s lazy and it insults the intelligence of the audience, implying they couldn’t properly contextualize on their own through force feeding you the context they want you to adopt instead.

It’s shit journalism and I am sick of it.

Keith is the Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Group editor@gatdaily.com A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. A Certified Instructor since 2009 he has taught concealed weapons courses in the West Michigan area in the years since and continues to pursue training and teaching opportunities as they arise.