School Shootings Aren't An Epidemic, Trust The Criminal Justice Major
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School Shootings Aren't An Epidemic, Trust The Criminal Justice Major

The world can be scary, but we don't need to help make it any scarier.


I've been there- Facebook posts, Instagram posts, political outrage. All appeal to emotion. A trending Odyssey article actually was what finally motivated me to write this because I still see them often. Gun-related crimes especially have been a hot topic and what better way to help that case than to involve children? But these ideas aren't necessarily true, mostly due to the media.

The problem doesn't necessarily begin with the crimes themselves but with the way the media reports. It's important to note the influence of media driven moral panic and the consequential shifts in policies toward school crime and misconduct. That being said, the important part of that is that the media drives moral panic and leads society to believe that there is an ongoing epidemic of school violence. School-related crimes usually elevate from local to national news and the severity gives the impression of dramatic increases, that results in a lot of pressure from public opinions to crack down on violence.

Except there isn't an epidemic. The amount of school violence really hasn't increased (or decreased) in the past several years. A big proponent of this is framing and agenda setting, which is a method many of us are familiar with where the media presents a story in a particular way. Depending on how it's framed results in how we interpret the story. This happens sometimes in politics as well, especially during elections when candidates use particular current events to play up their following. The media provides a context for public discussion complete with aggressive reporting.

After Columbine, the pressure from public figures to crack down increased substantially and it was the catalyst for many "get tough" policies. Columbine was essentially the poster for new violent youth offenders. In fact, we Criminal Justice "professionals" have a word for it- the Columbine effect. (Creative, right?)

This is a phrase that refers to the leveraging of anxiety about youth social problems in an expansion of discipline. Homicide is the second leading cause of death of persons 15 to 24 years old. However, only one percent of those were school associated. Columbine was on the extreme end of this violence so it is not the typical archetype for school shootings, as one example. It was the exception, not the rule. The media reports on the story, however, like it is the rule and happens constantly. It's effective in determining what audiences will see as newsworthy and can legitimize or marginalize stories to help tell us what to think.

Fear and control are the two biggest factors here. Of course, when children are involved there is always fear and that isn't abnormal, but, fear drives irrational actions. Popular measures like metal detectors, surveillance, security guards, etc. often become the answer. Or my personal favorite- a result in zero-tolerance policies, which encourage an emphasis on control regardless of intent or context. (These don't work).

Schools are institutions of social control which provide both care and control that help determine which route a child will take moving forward. However, my point here is that the more panic that is injected into the public the more people feel the urgency to take extreme measures to protect through various forms of control. But the more approaches you try, the less care you can provide. Things become worse because you begin perpetuating fear in children and when fear is at the core of student-teacher relationships, they can rarely be positive.

As long as there are people reporting news, there will continue to be a perpetuation of this fear. You don't get views or start conversations from telling people they're safe. The world can be scary, but we don't need to help make it any scarier. These incidents happen but nowhere near the severity or frequency, we are being told. Therefore, before you take stances on situations like this find unbiased sources that will give you straight facts instead of adding fuel to the fire.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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