Science & Tech

Radcliffe conference presents research on lethal school violence

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Researchers aim to understand school shootings

Educators, policy-makers, law enforcement officials, and adolescent-development specialists came to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study on May 21, 2002, for the National Conference on Lethal School Violence. The conference centerpiece was the report “Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence,” a qualitative and quantitative study of incidents of lethal school shootings released by the National Academies of Science on May 17. The report, commissioned by Congress, studied six incidences of lethal school violence in the 1990s. While the conference offered no quick fixes or easy answers, researchers found that spotlight-grabbing culprits such as family instability and violent media images played a role in some but not all of the shootings. More common and disturbing trends were easy access to guns and the increasingly fragile mental health of the shooters. Yet while the shooters exhibited warning signs, these signs were, for the most part, ignored by adults. Enhancing screening for student mental health problems and bridging the communication divide between students and the adults responsible for them may prevent school shootings, the researchers found. The forum was organized by the National Academies of Science, the Kennedy School of Government, the Graduate School of Education, and Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.