Next Enrollment Deadline: May 03, 2024 For More Information Call 800-542-1553 Now.

New Shrink Box Article

February 13, 2024
Read All News

Since Columbine on April 20th, 1999 where two twelfth graders murdered 12 of their fellow students and a school teacher, the incidence of school shootings across the United States have been occurring at a higher frequency with increasing fatalities for the past 20 years. Recent shooting incidences in Virginia Tech, Parkland high school in Florida and Uvalde, Texas have shocked the sensibilities of the nation and many have given in to despair, fear and sometimes hopelessness due to our inability as a society to efficiently address this growing epidemic. Policy makers, school administrators and parents are mostly at a loss as to how to deal with this problem and more often than not seem to disagree on the way forward. The political and ideological divide in state and federal legislative bodies have stymied and meaningful progress in gun-safety legislations for decades in the country. This has led to a growing concern regarding school safety among parents and stakeholders in recent years who struggle to find answers to these tragic events and how to mitigate their profound and far-reaching negative impacts on vulnerable school children and on the surrounding communities.

Questions in the wake of such shootings have centered around why they happened, and the triggers that precipitated such heinous actions on the part of the perpetrator. Researchers over the years have tried to piece these together to try to explain these unfortunate incidences and to evaluate associated risks and potential profile of a would-be school shooter in an attempt to avoid future occurrence. Retrospective analyses after such incidences have led to a plethora of reasons and postulations that seeks to explain the behavior of school shooters.

There is a universal consensus among researchers that school shootings are always mostly not a sudden impulsive act but are due to a myriad of longstanding, festering and unresolved problems interacting with each and culminating in the act. Research suggests that there may be a connection between school bullying and the occurrence of these violent incidents.

This article, seeks to explore the role bullying plays in contributing to school shooting incidences and what stakeholders particularly school administrators, teachers and parents can do to prevent them by creating a safe school environment for all.

According to the FBI and the National Center for the Analysis of Violent crime, most school shooters indicate their plans prior to the incidence through some form of overt communication such as drawings, diaries, or school essays or verbally to friends and teachers. Recently social media posts have become a channel for communicating such plans well in advance of the incidence.

Risk factors are many and have ranged from impulsiveness, hyperactivity, childhood abuse, academic failure, bullying and most importantly acess to firearms. Individual risk factors such as unstable homes, toxic social and environmental conditions, strained relationships both at home and in the school with peers and teachers stemming out of bullying are among the most concerning. Such unhealthy social dynamics especially in the school setting significantly distorts the perpetrator’s perception of themselves as victims prior to their attack.

School shootings are defined as “incidents in which a gun is brandished or fired on school property or a bullet hits school property for any reason, regardless of the number of victims, time of day, day of the week, or reason”. In the 2020-2021 school year, 93 school shooting incidence with 50 severe injuries and 43 deaths in addition to 53 reported school shootings with no casualties were reported-the highest since 2000 and 2023 in on course to surpass that record.

There were 207 deaths and 385 injuries in school related shooting incidences between 2010-2019. However, for the 2020s, as of July 13th, 2023, there has been a total of over 100 deaths and over 200 injuries in school related shootings indicating a trend that is increasing in frequency and fatalities with 32 school incidences reported in the first 6 months of this year alone.

According to a 2022 report by the Department of Education, even though violent deaths and shootings at school are rare, such incidences when they do occur are always tragic with extreme negative outcomes on the school population and the community.

Olweus in his 1994 article defined bullying as “long term repeated victimization, with an imbalance of power between the bully and the victim” which can present as physical, verbal or psychological in nature or a new phenomenon known as cyber-bullying. Many studies over the years have revealed significant correlation and causality between school bullying and the incidence of anxiety, depression leading to psychological and somatic disorders including eating disorders, suicidal and homicidal ideation. Bullying has a profound negative effect on the psychosocial development of young children and adolescents leading to low self-esteem, anger and a feeling of helplessness. The cryings and pleadings and the clarion call of bullied individuals for help usually go unnoticed or unanswered by both adults and peers, and school administrators. Feeling increasingly abandoned, isolated, marginalized and abused, bullied individuals gradually lose hope and trust in the system, retreating to themselves only for comfort and eventually becoming loners.

According to the government website,, a sizeable percentage of children subjected to severe bullying might retaliate or fight back by resorting to extremely severe violent measures in an attempt to right such perceived injustice or to exact revenge. Research shows there is an increased risk of a severely bullied victim carrying a weapon to school ostensibly to be used for defense or exacting revenge which has the potential to escalate into tragic school shooting incidence if not caught earlier and addressed.

A survey by the US Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) captured the many forms bullying which can be presented in the school setting such as name calling, teasing, spreading rumors or lies, physical harm, threatening harm, stealing belongings, sexual comments/gestures among others.

Research shows that persistent bullying can cause depression and anxiety and contribute to suicidal behavior. Available data gives credence to the long-term negative health impacts and social dysfunction on victims of bullying, the effect of which are much more far-reaching and serious than previously thought. According to the DHHS, over 77% of American students have been verbally, mentally and physically bullied. About 85% of incidents receive no kind of intervention, so it is common for bullying to be ignored. In the same survey quoted by the DHHS, approximately 30% of young people admit to bullying others.

It must be clearly stated that school shootings are complex events driven by a variety of factors, including psychological, social, and environmental triggers. While not all school shooters have a history of being bullied, evidence suggests that some shooters may have experienced chronic victimization, leading to feelings of resentment, anger, and a desire for revenge. Understanding the motivations behind school shootings can shed light on and possibly delineate how bullying might contribute to such extreme outcomes.

In a study by Larking et al, on school shootings, the author concluded that over half of the perpetrators claim they were exacting revenge for perceived mistreatment or otherwise from their peers specifically targeting their tormentors. Such perception of social rejection especially in the presence of other factors such as lack of social skills which may have contributed to the bullying in the first place, sets the bullied individual on a downward spiral of continuous isolation and rejection with potential negative consequences including violent outburst in certain situations. This hypothesis is strongly supported by the work of Kidd and Meyer who showed a strong link between interpersonal rejection and aggressive behavior lending credence to some school shootings being provoked by real or imagined rejection in the context of school bullying.

In one study by Meloy and others on 34 male subjects with median age of 17 who committed mass murders, almost half were severely bullied at school in addition to other aggravating factors. In 40 post incidence analyses of school shootings studies, bullying by peers appear as one of the aggravating factors that led to the aggression in 30% of the cases in addition to other factors such as acess to firearms.

According to a final joint report released by the US Secret Service and the Department of Education on the Safe School Initiative program in 2004, evidence of bullying in addition to social rejection by peers were discovered in over 66% of the 37 cases that were analyzed. The report drew a strong correlate between the experience of being bullied and a violent gun attack in school. It has been documented that repeated bullying, almost bordering on torment has a significant impact on the perpetrators’ motivation in committing the attack. In the work of Newman and others in 2004, bullying and perception of social marginalization in a world that matters most to the perpetrator were among the key factors on the path to school shooting. The Authors reported evidence of bullying and marginalization in over 65% in all the 25 cases studied.

            It is an undeniable fact, that the psychological toll of bullying on victims can lead to emotional distress, social isolation, and a compromised sense of self-worth. These negative consequences may contribute to the development of emotional and psychological vulnerabilities that could potentially increase the risk of engaging in violent behavior.

Addressing social isolation and fostering a sense of belonging within the school community is crucial and critical for preventing both bullying and school shootings. As a preventive measure, it is also important for school administrators and teachers to recognize and promptly address any presenting warning signs of a potential school shooter especially if bullying is identified rather being reactionary after the tragic acts of violence by focusing on post incident analyses. Creating a supportive and open environment where students feel comfortable reporting concerning behaviors is essential. Creating and implementing effective intervention strategies, such as counseling and mental health support, can help mitigate the escalation of violence.

Above all, creating a positive school environment that promotes inclusiveness and zero tolerance for bullying, instituting and implementing both preventive and crisis management protocols can be a powerful tool in mitigating both bullying and school shootings.

By establishing healthy relationships and strong connections among students, teachers and administrators, we can create an environment where trust and respect is cultivated, earned cherished to create a more nurturing school environment. Teachers, school administrators, parents and students should be made to understand the damaging consequences of bullying both at the individual and the community level and the far-reaching harms it creates in the community for all.

Even though bullying alone may not be enough or the only factor to precipitate such an extreme and tragic violence such as mass shooting in a school, when combined with the presence of other factors such as psychological problems, fascination with guns and/or acess to them, the risk to violence becomes extremely elevated and it is imperative on educators and policy makers to work together to mitigate the risk of both bullying and school shootings.

Apply Now Request More Info