Girls Are Targets In School Shootings Over 30 Years


Pennsylvania’s Amish school killings, like the case a week earlier at the high school in Bailey, Co., share this feature: “The predominant pattern in school shootings of the past three decades is that girls are the victims,” says Katherine Newman, a Princeton University sociologist who has researched 21 school shootings since the 1970s. The Christian Science Monitor says the new school cases are reminiscent of a jobless hospital worker’s killing 14 female engineering students at the University of Montreal in 1989, accusing them of stealing jobs from men. Martin Schwartz, an Ohio University sociologist who studies violence against women, relates such incidents to a culture of violence against women, “a mutation – something beyond.”

It is rare for mass school shootings to occur in cities. Despite their safe image, rural communities can be a fertile breeding ground for revenge. “People think small towns are safer, but in a small community grievances can fester,” says psychology Prof. Cheryl Meyer of Dayton’s Wright State University, who has researched school shootings in rural and small towns. “It’s so often about revenge. Even if something happened 20 years ago, it doesn’t mean it is gone. People talk about it and everybody remembers. It just trails after you.” News media bear some responsibility, says criminologist James Fox of Northeastern University: “It’s the publicity they get that turns the shooter into a celebrity that spawns more of them.” While murder totals drop nationally, including violent school fatalities, there is “more spectacular stuff going on,” Schwartz says. “Splashy violence is what’s going up, even though crime as a whole going down. The only thing not going down is fear engendered by these types of high-profile events.”


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