Could the Virginia Tech shooting been avoided?


Could the Virginia Tech shooting been avoided?


<a href="">Nafeesah Abdullah</a>
May 06, 2007

In light of recent events this just gets added to the list of school shootings that have taken place over the last 5+ years and what seems to be motive is identical the perpetrators are young white males under the age of 21 with a history of disturbing behavior either expressed through writing or other means like music, video games, and artwork. This situation took a small turn since the perpetrator was a 23 year old Asian (Korean) male. The loner mentality wasn&#39;t anything new because the two guys at Columbine also were loners too and the other perpetrators of past school shootings were also loners too with family issues.

As a former college RA I have experienced students who are not as social as others, but I made it my responsibility to check in with my residents just to let them know I am there for them if they needed anything even someone to talk to. You got some RA&#39;s who are in the job just for the perks, but are not true to the job of being a student leader and someone who is held to standards to uphold and adhere to the job and what it entails. RA&#39;s need to be retrained to understand that they are in a position to serve students and to exercise their skills as a student leader, and having a more personal approach to how they interact with students.

Most students who tend to be loners don&#39;t have a lot of friends and usually are the butt of people&#39;s jokes for being strange or weird and just plain dysfunctional. The RA who was among the victims of this horrific crime didn&#39;t deserve what he got, but this should be a wake up call to RA&#39;s who treat students like they don&#39;t matter. This should be a wake up call to students and teachers period that if you recognize someone who tends to be a loner to speak up because this can stop the violence in schools and it&#39;s not just college, but in grade and high schools everywhere. Students don&#39;t want to feel that they&#39;re ratting someone out, but would they rather tell on someone who&#39;s like this than to be the target of their anger and aggression when it builds up to the point that it hits the breaking point? This is where we have to take action, and not wait until something happens for us to do something about the problem. Columbine should have not happened, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold&#39;s parents should have taken note of what their sons&#39; teachers and counselors said about the disturbing behavior and maybe then something could have been done and the shootings would have not happened.

It took a sad tragedy like what happened at Virginia Tech for people to recognize that the mentality of those who tend to spend time alone can be dangerous. For some of us who are attending college as undergrads and graduate students we should be able to feel safe on the campuses that we are attending classes at, and we shouldn&#39;t have to worry about some student who&#39;s disturbed who&#39;s got issues taking their anger out on innocent people.Innocent lives were senselessly lost due to a student&#39;s silent anger, and when it was made public by his English professor that his writing assignments were of pedophilia and murder should have tipped off the university that this student has issues and should have been treated as such.

Are school administrations planning to take teachers and counselors seriously when they bring to their attention reports of a student(s) erratic and disturbing behavior where it involves some kind of harm to people or things or even committing acts of violence against a certain group of people or gender? There&#39;s got to be some accountability on a school&#39;s part to address these matters whether it&#39;s a student in grade/high school or even college. Students should be inspired to take even more action since peers are key to recognizing things among their own peers. If this was a team effort between fellow students and teachers this can lessen future incidents from happening.This is where schools need to up the ante and make people aware that those who are mentally ill are unpredictable.

This runs along the line of Laurie Dann who was a mentally ill woman then 32 years old who went on a shooting spree and shot up 15 students and two teachers at Hubbard Woods elementary school in Glencoe, Illinois. The media frenzy was so bad that Laurie&#39;s parents had immediately sold their home and relocated to Florida to escape the press who would surround their house to get a response from them. They were at a loss for words because they didn&#39;t think their daughter was capable of doing such a thing until the media revealed that she was a paranoid schizophrenic and a manic depressant.

The Columbine incident should have never happened either and this was due in part that Eric Harris was noted to taking the anti-psychotic medication Luvox as part of his anger management therapy which may have contributed to his psychotic rage most likely a side effect of taking the drug and also after the Marine Corps had rejected him when he applied shortly after his 18th birthday. What makes no real sense is that teachers and counselors at Columbine had been telling the Harris&#39; and the Klebolds for quite some time that their sons were displaying disturbing behavior in their work in school especially their writings and even artwork that was confiscated from them. Then what boils down to it is how you do you go about ignoring what teachers are saying about your child ? How did the parents of these two guys not know they were building bombs in their house something should have tipped off the parents.

What some reports were said is that Dylan and Eric&#39;s parents should have been held fully responsible for seeking appropriate help for their child to address issues that were brought up out of concern by school officials. These parents had to have some idea that something wasnt sitting right when they&#39;re not looking in on them just to check up on them and even prohibiting them from having a computer in their room so they can monitor their activity online since they had created a webpage called Trenchcoat Mafia. This is why parents don&#39;t need to allow their kids to have computers in their rooms and need to keep it in a family room so that children can be monitored at all times. How could they not know that these two were stockpiling weapons and ammunition? That&#39;s just plain ignorance most parents would be searching rooms like a corrections officer doing a random cell search in a prison.

This is what is not clear with parents when they ignore the warning signs of a potential problem when teachers and counselors bring to their attention issues of disturbing behavior. Dylan and Eric were both time bombs ready to go off if this was due in part to the so called teasing, but maybe they may have done something to provoke the things that happened to them? People feel sorry for loners, but do they really get to the bottom of the truth behind their strange behavior. be surprised that the Harris&#39; and the Klebolds haven&#39;t relocated out of Colorado to an undisclosed location to escape the media frenzy. What would it take to stop future incidents like this from happening?

What can colleges and universities do to train their residential education staff to address issues of dorm residents acting bizzare like the guy at Virginia Tech. Resident Advisors need to be trained to spot potentially dangerous behavior in their residents and report this to the school. It shouldn&#39;t get to the point where incidents like this happen for something to be done about it. You have to nip that mess in the bud before it happens so that it not only saves the lives of innocent people who become the target of someone&#39;s anger out of control, but it will also bring increased awareness and security to campuses to protect enrollment status for the colleges and universities.

As a former Resident Advisor I will say to the future RA&#39;s that you need to make it your mission and job to show compassion and caring for your residents because you are in charge of making sure they feel safe and comfortable during their stay on campus. You are also a student leader and a confidant when students come to you with problems whether it&#39;s personal or not. I always told my residents I have an open door policy if they need anything please call or stop by my room. Some RA&#39;s are just in the job because of the perks they get which is free room and board and a stipend that&#39;s paid out through the year.

Some RA&#39;s aren&#39;t true to their jobs or to who they serve and that&#39;s what gives the good RA&#39;s who do their job a bad name and essentially just looking for an opportunity to make their resumes look good. There are times when you need an RA one isnt even around to help you and that&#39;s what frustrates a lot of students especially at big colleges and universities. I had some of the best residents around because some of them were students I had classes with and I talked to them outside of class if something&#39;s up, checked in with them just to let them know someone cares and if they have a problem we sought out the appropriate kind of help and utilized the school counselors if a problem was requiring the professional advice of a social worker or psychologist.

Most of these loners are crying for help if their behavior is turning violent and disturbing. If there&#39;s the fact that the guy behind the Virginia Tech shootings had been making references to Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris as martyrs for what they did during Columbine he&#39;s just a copy cat except he didn&#39;t attempt to hijack a plane to crash it into some major city. This explains that laws surrounding the rights of the mentally ill needs to be changed because some people have more than one type of mental illness which can in fact make them very dangerous. This in turn should make this kind of information readily available to residential education and the counseling department so they can know what students to watch for and if peers around this person begin to talk about changes in behavior or normal routines to take it as something is going on and be on high alert.

This is a hot topic across the board how many more incidents like this do we need to say something has to be done to stop this kind of violence on college and university campuses across the country. What can counselors do when confronting a parent(s) about their child having issues that needs to be addressed. Could the Harris&#39; and Klebolds avoided the mayhem their sons caused had they listened to the people who were trying to tell them their children had some serious issues.

This is going to be a hot topic for a while after the Virginia incident because for someone who clearly had mental illness this needs to be addressed and I am sure the parents of the young man who was involved in this are going to be living with the pain of what happened. I hope the Klebold and Harris families reach out to them to let them know they are not alone and to try and make sense of what drove their sons to do what they did. This is also a pattern too since you see mostly young white males from middle class backgrounds doing this, but this time it changes ethnic background to Asian. We as a society are ones to just sweep things under the rug and when something happens we&#39;re on our soapboxes trying to make sense of the situation.


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Nafeesah Abdullah




Brent Jesiek


Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License




Nafeesah Abdullah, “Could the Virginia Tech shooting been avoided?,” The April 16 Archive, accessed April 21, 2024,