School violence in the form of mass shootings has forced the country to seek answers that explain the aggression of certain students. Though it is easy to point to the accessibility of guns and other weapons, as well as the rise in gang culture, the causes and effects of school violence tend to center on the psychological welfare of the students.
Mental and Behavioral Causes
Students with disorders such as bipolar disease or depression find it hard to see anything positive in their day to day lives. When they become hurt by events or activities that happen at school, such as being turned down for a date or being ridiculed by other members of their class, they tend to obsess over what they perceive as their own faults and shortcomings. Because these students find little hope in their existence, they may begin to dream of ending their own lives as well as the lives of those who have hurt them. This was partly the case for one of the Columbine killers, Dylan Klebold, who began to express overwhelmingly negative feelings about the world in his journals, according to a 2004 article written by Dave Cullen in Slate Magazine. Cullen discusses the other Columbine killer, Eric Harris, as a psychopath who raged on in his journals about everything he hated in the world, including "Star Wars geeks" and "stupid people."
At least two disorders, conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder, manifest themselves through violent and rebellious acts in children and teenagers. Students with these disorders express destructive and aggressive behaviors against authority members. Conduct disorder is the more serious of the two, as those who suffer from it have no regard for others' basic human rights. According to GuidetoPsychology.com, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder can lead to a child or teen showing disruptive behaviors, but the behavior is largely impulsive and without any form of malice.
It is a popular claim that violence in the media, namely TV shows, music and movies, has contributed to the rise in school violence. Because violent images and scenarios have become more prevalent in contemporary culture, some psychologists believe that children and teens have gone through a desensitization process that keeps them from thinking violence is rare. Furthermore, GuidetoPsychology.com states these media messages may help exacerbate the problem in students with already destructive tendencies.
Another cause of school violence comes from students' home lives. The Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that children learn most of their behaviors and characteristics from their family, especially those displayed by their parents. If parents consistently use physical abuse against a child, he may use violence against others at his school because he sees it as a power that he does not have at home.
Effects of School Violence
It is typical of school violence to mainly affect those who are victimized by bullying classmates. The depression that breeds anger and hostility leading to violent tendencies in school bullies can, in turn, lead to victimized students becoming depressed and disinterested in school activities and academia altogether. Witnessing violence also leads to students becoming less inclined to study for tests, and they may fail classes as a result. As students begin to feel uncomfortable at school due to violence, they may avoid class or drop out of school completely just to escape the negativity.
When victimized students are consistently targeted by bullies, the resulting depression and low self-esteem can lead to tragedy. The National Center for Children Exposed to Violence states these students may turn to thoughts of suicide if they do not feel they can discuss their feelings with family members or counselors due to shame or fear. They may also decide to take their anger out on the bullying classmates in further displays of school violence.