Thomas Ondrey / The Cleveland Plain Dealer
Columbine High School, Case Western University, Virginia Tech, Chardon High School.
All of these schools have been impacted by shootings in some shape or form, and were of different magnitudes, fatalities and motives. But all of them centered around violence and issues that adolescents might face every day.
The most recent being the shooting at Chardon High School near Cleveland, Ohio, Monday morning. The shooting left three students dead and two injured, but in stable condition. The alleged gunman, Thomas Lane, 17, began shooting in the cafeteria and was later chased out of the school. He later turned himself in and is in custody, according to multiple reports.
Multiple news reports suggest Lane was bullied and that could have been one of several possible motives.
Dr. Deanna Wilkinson, an associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science, highlighted that reports of bullying being at the root of the shooting are not substantiated.
“It looks more like it’s a mental health, depression issue more so than bullying being a major part of it,” Wilkinson said.
Because bullying in schools has received more media attention recently, it might be easy to jump to the issue while overlooking other important aspects, said Mollie Blackburn, an associate professor in the College of Education and Human Ecology.
“Everyone is anti-bullying,” said Blackburn, who has taught anti-bullying classes in Columbus City schools. “I worry that when people jump to the cause of bullying that they jump past a lot of the other things that are part of the dynamic.”
Blackburn said it’s important to understand bullying is not just between a bully and a victim.
“It’s a bullying dynamic, and it sounds like it’s a situation as well where somebody who has been bullied also bullies other people,” Blackburn said.
Wilkinson said she heard Lane wrote a Facebook post prior to the shooting that could have been a warning sign, but said teens will often post things and not always mean it.
“Social media plays a huge part in the roles of adolescents,” Wilkinson said. “But what we can do with that, is use that information to prevent stuff … We certainly need to use our resources to work on the other end of dealing with the underlying issues that are causing someone to feel so emotionally distraught to do something like this.”
Monitoring social media accounts in high schools could be difficult, Wilkinson said, but more action needs to be taken to prevent similar incidents in the future.
“I think we could build a system that would protect us 100 percent from things like this happening again,” Wilkinson said. “I think that we can certainly do a better job of providing the support, paying attention to the seriousness of depression and looking into warning signs around those issues.”
Part of Wilkinson’s research deals with what people think when they are armed and angry. Any social media posts Lane might or might not have written would indicate premeditation, but Wilkinson said this is rarely the case in such a situation.
“What I’ve found is that there is very little premeditation,” Wilkinson said. “What is more common is for the violence to sort of emerge out of the situation. The premeditation may be that they carry the gun around and they’re armed, and they put themselves in these situations but whether or not they actually use the gun in a conflict situation has a whole lot more to do with who else is there, what’s the nature of the grievance, are they drunk or high, there’s all these other factors that come into play.”
According to multiple reports on Tuesday, Lane did not know the victims and chose them at random. In court Tuesday, Lane admitted to firing 10 shots at CHS and will be held until charged; prosecutors have until March 1 to charge him, according to multiple reports.
Considering Lane turned himself in after the shooting, Wilkinson said it’s difficult to rationalize such a situation.
“Whether you’re a victim or a perpetrator of crime, your brain and your body gives off chemicals as you’re going through that moment that you can’t actually predict what you’re going to do in that situation,” Wilkinson said.
While the shooting has received international attention, Wilkinson said she does not believe the media surrounding it will spark copy-cat events.
“If you’re suffering from mental illness, and then all of a sudden your famous for a minute and you’re a household name … for some people who really are troubled, that’s an attractive, appealing thing,” Wilkinson said. “But I think that the fact they are suffering so much, it’s not worth it.”
Kevin Jackson, a third-year in strategic communication, said he wishes more could be done to prevent shootings.
“My first reaction was that it’s a shame that after all the past school shootings, someone hasn’t figured out a way to be more aware of kids that may be struggling emotionally,” Jackson said.
The key to prevention is paying more attention, Wilkinson said.
“I think we can do a better job of paying attention to depression, paying attention to just how difficult it can be to be an adolescent when your parents don’t have their lives together,” Wilkinson said.
The issue of concealed carry laws was called into question, but Wilkinson said she doesn’t think different gun laws would have prevented the incident.
“I think that whatever he had in his mind, he was already moving down that,” Wilkinson said. “I don’t think the implication of this is we need more concealed carry. I think that we need more services for mental health issues.”
One of the victims of the shooting, 16-year-old Daniel Parmertor, died Monday morning. Russell King Jr., 17, was pronounced brain dead Monday and later died. Demetrius Hewlin, 16, was the third student victim to die from the shooting, according to MetroHealth Medical Center.
Bianca Mandato, 18, was at school during the shooting and while she did not witness the incident, she said she is good friends with one of the victims who is still in the hospital.
“He (the victim) was just somebody who you never thought that this would happen to,” Mandato said. “It’s heartbreaking … it came out of nowhere ya know, out of the blue. It’s almost like a nightmare I keep trying to wake up from but I can’t.”
Ritika Shah contributed to this story.