I've been trading emails with Loren Coleman lately about the rash of school shootings in recent weeks. On September 14, Canadian Kimveer Gill attacked. He was said to have had a fondness for the Columbine shooters (he certainly loved the game). A number of similarly of deadly incidents followed, right up to today's death spree at an Amish school in Pennsylvania. Seems like a lot in a short period of time. Coincidence, or social phenomenon?
Here is what I am finding:
* Most contemporary school shootings tend
to occur primarily during two periods of the
school year – at the beginning (late Aug
through October) and near the the end of the
academic year (March-April).
* Copycats follow a regular temporal
pattern that repeats – these could be after
a primary media event in a day, a week, two
weeks, a month, a year, ten years –
vulnerable humans have internal media
* Copycats imitate the previous violent
attacks, oftentimes down to specific details
as that mirror the previous specifics of the
shooter, the victims, and the methods.
* "Celebrity" events have a far-reaching
impact and modeling effect — so, of course,
Columbine serves as a dark cloud over many
One of the silliest things I have heard from
cable news in the last several days during
mid-September 2006, is that "these school
shootings aren't like the other school
shootings." This is short-sighted, and factually
Before the current model (post-1996) in which a
member of the student body would go into their
own school and kill fellow students, the pattern
was one of outsiders — often adults — going into
schools and killing students. In my book, I
discuss some of the more infamous cases (…).
Every year is different, and a fresh view must
be considered based upon observations that are
right in front of our eyes. What I do at the
beginning of a new school year is to see if
there is an emerging pattern that will be the
re-worked "copycat" model for the new school
year. To me, it was and is obvious where we were
going this year.
Here's what I see: a mix of outsiders invading
school, and students making plans too (…)
Link to the website for Coleman's "Copycat Effect" book, with the full text of this essay. Here's a related post on his blog, in which he predicts more shootings in October as the social contagion spreads during this present cycle. Here's a related news item: "Six school shootings in less than six weeks: experts comment on cluster," in Canadian Press.