Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Coddling Children Can Be Recipe for Disaster Kids That Kill Can't Handle Rough Spots

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Coddling Children Can Be Recipe for Disaster Kids That Kill Can't Handle Rough Spots

Article excerpt

He is, we're told, a 15-year-old sophomore in high school, a church-going Boy Scout. An acquaintance says he recently broke up with his girlfriend and quotes him as saying, "I have no reason to live anymore." On Thursday, he shot and wounded six people at a high school in Conyers, Ga., just outside Atlanta.

And so, another name joins the list of little towns and suburbs touched in recent years by random school violence. Joins Jonesboro, Ark.; Pearl, Miss.; West Paducah, Ky.; Springfield, Ore.; and, of course, Littleton, Colo., where two schoolboys killed 12 classmates and a teacher and then committed suicide just a month ago.

At this writing, we know next to nothing about the boy who shot up Heritage High on Thursday. Yet, preliminary as it is, I find the milk-and-cookies description of this latest suspect telling. No red herrings of Goth fashion or video-game obsession to distract us here. So, maybe we can move beyond the reflexive reach for easy answers. Maybe we will finally face the harder question that comes of gazing into the unremarkable faces of kid killers:

Who are these children?

A new survey offers the glimmer of an understanding. It seems that the Gallup Organization recently polled young people about school violence. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed reported having classmates they considered capable of shooting up the school. Of those, the vast majority -- about 80 percent -- attend rural or suburban campuses. So, these children are not -- at least, not solely -- the children of the cities.

More telling, though, is the answer young people gave when asked what causes acts of campus violence. They pegged not pop culture, but the cruelty of their own peers -- the fact that some kids are bullied, taunted and made to feel like outsiders.

If you're old enough to have some space between yourself and your graduation, I'm sure that jumps out at you for the same reason it does me. Being bullied, taunted and made an outsider is a part of high school. Heck, for many of us, it is high school. Always has been. The terminology may change, but the dynamic is constant: Jocks and trendsetters still segregate themselves from nerds and space cadets. …

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