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VT: Hypothesis: More screening / intervention helps wrt violent mental issues?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by OncoCaP, Apr 17, 2007.

  1. OncoCaP

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    Based on what I have read, the shooter at VT may have had some mental issues (illness). I'm saying "may" because I haven't seen anything credible yet and I don't consider a snippet in a CNN article from an anonymous source to be credible; could just be a rumor (sometimes truth is stranger than fiction). It's probably fair to say that based on reading the shooter's plays on CNN and descriptions of interactions with classmates that there is reason to believe that this wasn't just an average English student having a bad day ... there are some suggestions that could lead one to believe that mental illness could have been a factor. Even if mental illness was not a factor, when a person without such a disease is pushed over the edge by circumstances, you could get a similar result (many previous shooters probably were simply disgruntled in an extreme way).

    So, my question for this thread is ... how do you deal with mental illness or other situations where perhaps a person with typical coping skills is being pushed over the edge and showing signs that violence might be on their mind? I'm not interested in starting a thread on bashing people with mental illness although this is somewhat inevitable here at the "thunderdome" of pre-allo (let's just try to control ourselves a little bit, ok? -- wasted words, I know).

    Should schools screen for mental illness, particularly mental illness that could lead to violence? Also, should there be a way of reporting people who show signs of the potential for violence and is there a way of handling this without violating the rights of students while at the same time respecting everyone's right for a relatively safe school environment?

    My own opinion is that there is a way to do such screenings, much as we require vaccinations, etc., that respects privacy and other rights. If a person does present a threat, there should be a way of keeping track of him/her and making sure that their access to weapons is made more difficult. For example, the university police might be given a list of people who could present a threat. I realize that this has ominous implications. An argument could perhaps be that people getting shot on campus is not enough of a risk compared to dying in a car accident, for example, to restrict privacy or personal freedoms. I'm a bit undecided but leaning toward some kind of screening and prevention. I'm interested to see what you all think.
     
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  3. ssquared

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    I just don't see how that's feasible (or even lawful). All of what you mentioned is a huge infringement upon a person's rights to privacy. Mental illness screening is not the same as making everyone get a Hep B shot or whatever.

    Plus, from what I've read about the shooter, he didn't show any signs of violence. People just thought he was quiet and maybe a bit weird. I've met a lot of kids at school whom I've thought are strange, but am I supposed to report every last one? People have personality quirks. People have depression. But more importantly, people don't want you, the "good samaritan," barging in on their business. Mental illness is a very, very private thing, and I don't think it would be helpful for those suffering from such an illness to be placed on some watch list, where they're prevented from living their lives. It's no different from the police pulling over a black guy simply because he's black. Assuming that someone who is mentally ill is going to shoot people is no different.
     
  4. Gut Shot

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    People with mental disorders and/or fixation on violence are a dime a dozen. Mass murderers are exceedingly rare. If you tried to screen out everyone who displayed some alleged risk factor for random killing, you'd end up with about 35 million false positives. And that still wouldn't prevent someone from climbing a clock tower or taking out the town Luby's.
     
  5. GoBlueMD83

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  6. Wanna_B_Scutty

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    The thing about student-written plays is that they are nearly always about dysfunctional and angry characters. If you ever go to a New Works Festival, I think you'll see what I mean. :smuggrin: Thus, as someone who has been in playwriting classes herself, the OP's plays really wouldn't raise my eyebrows as being anything more than standard artsy "angst."

    But yeah, I have to agree with ssquared on this issue. Screening would be impossible because of privacy rights... but I would argue that it would also be impossible because most students would have the sense to lie about any violent impulses, etc. that they might have. In our society, everyone knows that endorsement of violent impulses is much like endorsement of racism in that it is socially unacceptable. Likewise, people know that admitting things like "I feel depressed nearly every day" or "I think about death a lot" is likely to win them a free date with a psychiatrist. Thus, people will inevitably lie.

    To date there really is no good lie-proof screening mechamism for mental illness. The closest thing we have is the MMPI, and that can only be used for personality assessment. It asks a bunch of seemingly random questions (for example: I sometimes get hypnotized by the dancing flames of a fire), that wind up correlating to various personality traits. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnesota_Multiphasic_Personality_Inventory

    Although high scores on the MMPI Depression Scale and/or Schizophrenia scale could be used to ID people who are likely to have mental illnesses, actual diagnosis must be done via the DSM-IV or ICD scales. And it's very easy to lie with those.
     
  7. lord_jeebus

    lord_jeebus 和魂洋才
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    Exactly. Screening for anything this rare is very impractical. Throw in the absence of objective criteria, and it's completely infeasible. For the cost of one life saved through such screening, you could prevent millions of cases of malaria.
     
  8. OncoCaP

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    Hmm. Oh well, looks like we don't really have an effective & legal way of preventing this kind of random crime through any kind of screening / profiling. From what I heard the student was referred to couseling, so an instructor did notice something was seriously wrong. However, it may just be that this kind of mass murder is just sensational and that the real dangers to the average person lie elsewhere.
     
  9. baylormed

    baylormed On the Search
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    Apparenlty his writings were more than mere "ordinary" violence, because they were disturbing enough to prompt some professors into referring him to the counseling center.
     
  10. notdeadyet

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    Eh. I'm with Scutty on this one. The plays sounded just like every third student writing you'd hear in creative writing class: violence-obsessed martyr-complexes with daddy issues. Had to hear many reading of things like these where they'd finish, the TA would say, "Huh." and move on.
     
  11. OncoCaP

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    Yup, I believe it. I'm pretty sure there are other English papers & plays that aren't for general consumption at VT as well (violence & otherwise). When the English major sitting next to me in my cell bio class (not at VT) told me that her senior course paper was about "fisting" by way of suggestion from her professor who told her that her original topic was too general I knew was seriously out of touch in terms of my perception of majoring in English.

    At the same time, there was something (maybe the student's behavior and demeanor in class that made everyone think that this wasn't just your average violence obsessed writing) that bothered people about the shooter so that his work to be referred to the English department administration ... not the kind of thing you would expect if it was ordinary compared to other students.
     
  12. OncoCaP

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    Interesting update below ... however, the problem discussed above still exists ... there are probably many people like Cho. The question is how many "signs" do you need and what kind of indications before you force someone like this to be evaluated as a threat? Does someone really need to kill before we can evaluate them?

    http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/04/17/vtech.shooting/index.html
    BLACKSBURG, Virginia (CNN) -- A year and a half before before Cho Seung-Hui went on a deadly shooting spree on the campus of Virginia Tech, a professor was so concerned about his anger that she took him out of another teacher's creative writing class and taught him one-on-one.

    The former chairwoman of Virginia Tech's English department, Lucinda Roy, said the anger Cho expressed was palpable if not explicit.

    Cho, an English major, never wrote about guns or killing people, she said. But his writing was disturbing enough that she went to police and other university officials to seek help. (Watch the professor tell how her student frightened her )

    "The threats seemed to be underneath the surface," she said. "They were not explicit, and that was the difficulty the police had."

    "My argument was that he seemed so disturbed that we needed to do something about this."

    Without a clear threat, nothing could be done, however, and Roy made the decision to instruct him away from other students.


    "I just felt I was between a rock and a hard place," she said. "It seemed the only alternative was to send him back to the classroom, and I wouldn't do it."

    While teaching Cho one-on-one, Roy said she "made it clear that that kind of writing was unacceptable and he needed to write in another voice."

    She also said that she encouraged Cho to go to counseling, and believed that he may have "gotten tired of hearing it" and begun to tell her he had been going when, perhaps, he had not.

    Cho was an intelligent student, Roy said, but he left students and professors alike unnerved in his presence.

    Police say Cho killed at least 30 people and wounded 17 others before killing himself in Norris Hall, an engineering classroom building, Monday.
    ...
    ********

    The question of course is how different is Cho from others that don't kill in a way that could be predictive?

    The above seems cause enough to consider having Cho evaluated for risk. What do you think?
     
  13. notdeadyet

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    It's a tricky one. The guy was obviously a stress case and an angry young man, but that's neither against the law nor against school policy. I think the teacher showed some great insight in spotting him as being at risk and counselling him, but what can you do beyond that?

    I'd be very uncomfortable with the idea of teachers having the authority to require angry/dark students to attend counselling when they haven't done anything wrong. You can get away with that in high school to some degree, since students don't have full rights (since they're minors), but in college, you're dealing with adults.

    I just haven't seen any pre-rampage cause for arresting or pulling the student from school. You can't bar kids from campus because you don't like the look of them.
     
  14. OncoCaP

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    Well, more about this is coming out and it looks like there is clearly a history here. I really would be curious about whether there was anything different when you compare Cho with those who do go on rampages and those who do not:

    http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/04/18/vtech.shooting/index.html
    BLACKSBURG, Virginia (CNN) -- Cho Seung-Hui was referred to a mental health facility in 2005 after officers responded to accusations he was suicidal and stalked female students, police said Wednesday.

    Authorities received no more complaints about the 23-year-old English major until Monday when he killed at least 30 people before taking his own life on the Virginia Tech campus, university police Chief Wendell Flinchum said.

    Police first investigated Cho in November 2005 after a student complained about him calling her and contacting her in person, Flinchum said. (Watch how police learned of Cho's troubles )

    Cho was sent to the university's Office of Judicial Affairs, which handled the complaint, the outcome of which is confidential, university officials said.

    "The student declined to press charges and referred to Cho's contact with her as annoying," Flinchum said of the November investigation.

    Police investigated him again the following month when a female student complained about instant messages Cho sent her, Flinchum said.

    "Again, no threat was made against that student. However, she made a complaint to the Virginia Tech Police Department and asked that Cho have no further contact with her," the chief said.

    After police spoke to Cho, they received a call from a student concerned that he might be suicidal.

    After speaking with Cho "at length," the officers asked him to see a counselor, and he agreed to be evaluated by Access Services, an independent mental health facility in Blacksburg, the chief said.

    "A temporary detention order was obtained and Cho was taken to a mental health facility" on December 13, 2005, he said.

    A student asking to be identified only as Andy said he was the one who told police that Cho was suicidal. Police "took [Cho] away to the counseling center for a night or two," said the student, who used to room with Cho. (Watch Cho's roommates describe his "crazy" behavior )

    ...

    *******

    We may learn more about this. Let's see. However, as you say, maybe several students and professors killed every few years is a price we must pay if we want our freedom in this regard. I just wish we should screen out these shooters in advance.
     
  15. notdeadyet

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    Ah. I hadn't read the piece about his suicidal behavior and stalking. That's obviously a red flag, so there could be debate about how much you remove these folks from general population. The last I heard, it was only the scary plays, which is hardly grounds. This new information is difference.

    I think the big problem with trying to screen folks who go on shooting rampages is that there are so few. It's like studying the behavior of albino tigers; it's hard to draw preventative measures since they're such oddities.

    That's not to minimize the importance of mental health. Shooting sprees like this guy's are rare. But what worries me is how many folks out there come this close. I think that number is probably frighteningly higher than we'd like to admit.
     
  16. Pemberley

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    Two very good questions! Actually applicable, and getting entirely drowned out by the self-adoring cant of the gun control crowd.

    For the first, if there really are effective (and cost effective!) screening measures, I am unaware of them. Sadly, I am unaware of the vast majority of psychology, so I really can't speak to this one.

    The second is really the interesting one. What should the university have the right to do when a student is "off" in that non-quantifiable, even-loopier-than-the-other-English-majors, we-can't-prove-it-but-this-guy's-gonna-go-off way that is totally unsuited to being dealt with in ordinary bureaucratic forms and regulations?

    This is easier for private universities. They ought to be able to declare policies, and if the students don't like the policies, they can go elsewhere.

    This issue is very difficult for public ones. Nobody wants state-imposed mental hygiene police. But on the other hand, nobody wants a mass shooting, knifing, olympics-style pipe-boming, or a little something slipped into the mac & cheese at the cafeteria.

    Oh, and if you're the school administrator, you'd better come up with some easy answers. You must avoid 100% of the risk in both directions, or you will find yourself the center of an expose on 60 Minutes. You are the Oppressive Administration Censor right up to the day that something bad happens, when you magically become the Unconcerned Administrator Who Failed To Take Action When Warned.

    Nobody likes trade-offs. What's the optimal answer to this one?
     
  17. OncoCaP

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    I'm not sure it would have cost very much to kick this person off campus. He seems like a rather obvious case. Everyone who knew this person knew he was a bomb waiting to explode and had no doubt about who did this when the news came out. Yes, intuition isn't perfect, but some extreme cases like this shouldn't be blown off with "there is nothing we can do." So now 31 people got killed ... are you happy about your freedoms now?

    I would say the answer depends on the political temperature / climate. Right now would be a good time to lay down some rules that if a professor fears for the safety of her students and that suitably qualified persons (mental health professionals who will be held personally liable for their decision) agree is an issue that a mental evaluation be made and acted upon. People who make these decisions should be held personally liable for these decisions because they are life & death matters. While it might seem heavy-handed to kick someone who has all the indicators of a killer off campus, it becomes necessary at some point. How much of a threat does someone have to be before we remove them from campus? It seems that we are too lenient right now. Put together the tense classroom situations, writings, poems with some of the inappropriate behavior related to the female classmates and violent dreams and I would get this person off campus. He could take classes by correspondence or online. There needs to be more disclosure even if it invades the student's privacy. I don't know about you, but I want to know if I have a classmate who dreams about killing people, can't seem to control his/her feelings, by all indications is a bomb waiting to go off, and has already done some inappropriate things. I would rather not be a statistic. Just telling him that he needs counseling when his professors are afraid of him isn't an adequate response in my opinion.

    Fast foward a couple of years and it would be more difficult to pull something like this off legally. We could argue that convicting people in a court of law is shaky sometimes as well and not perfect (far from perfect, actually), and yet, it is the best system we have and so we go with it. That's the sad thing ... a lot of rules and necessary procedures are written in the blood of innocent victims.
     
  18. notdeadyet

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    Not going to happen. There won't be policies of how to remove you from you college because they "don't like the look of you", whether it's what you write or how you dress. Or the color of your skin or the fact that you wear a burka. Or the fact that you have ten firearms at home and talk way too much about guns. See where I'm going with this? What looks like indicative behavior after the fact could be harmless before.

    You have to deal with behavior. I think schools will crack down on behaviors which are possible predecessors to shooting rampages. I think they'll take very seriously things like stalking, death threats, suicide threats, torture of animals, etc. The problem is that they already are.

    The fact is that we live in a country with folks with lots of sick ideas and mental illness. They have easy access to firearms that allow for killing of lots of people. You can take away access to the firearms, but you'd have knifing rampages. Granted, much smaller death toll but still a tragedy. So that leaves dealing with the mental illness instead.
     
  19. notdeadyet

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    But this already exists. If a professor has evidence that the student is a threat to his/her own safety or that of other students, the professor has an obligation to notify the administration. That already happened here.

    Schools have a great power: if they feel the student is a threat to themselves or others, they can kick 'em out of school or off campus.
     
  20. eternalrage

    eternalrage Even Kal has bad days...
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    If you're going to limit someone's options in life, basically control where their future lies, even for the safety of others, well you might as well start culling babies that have these mental illnesses which you want to screen out.

    Instead, ask yourself what would a free man do.
     
  21. notdeadyet

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    Actually, you don't have the right to know if you classmate dreams about killing people. You don't have the right to know about his past arrest record either (with a few notable exceptions like child molestations).

    It is the college's responsibility to keep students off campus who are threats, but they do not have the right to expose their dreams or criminal record. Colleges don't have that right, nor do employers.
    Court of law requires evidence. I think in this case you could make a good argument for kicking the guy out of school (stalking, etc.). But that's already in the books at schools. VTech choose not to do it.
     
  22. OncoCaP

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    Don't we lock up people who are a threat now? Maybe we have the right procedures but we are just too lenient. How many of your fellow students do you know that have their professors fearing for the safety of their students? I have never encountered this. Seems like someone dropped the ball (more than once).

    By the way, I don't pretend that everyone with a mental illness is a threat. Some are violent, but many are not.
     
  23. notdeadyet

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    Yeah, this whole topic makes me very nervous.

    Not just this specific thread or even SDN, but I'm finding that the generation that is coming up through college now is pretty comfortable in giving away rights for "safety" and "security".

    I suppose it makes sense, since it's the generation that doesn't remember pre-9/11 with adult eyes, but it scares the $hit out of me. We have already given up most of our privacy, our freedom of speech, and habeas corpus. We have given up rights that both Democrats and Republicans would have been willing to go to war over not more than a decade ago, but now we're giving them up readily.

    So I suppose it makes sense that this generation sees it as normal to give up these rights but the precedence bothers me. I'm sort of at the point where the clear and present danger must be pretty clear and pretty present for me to thumbs up giving away any more rights. And as much as my heart goes out and as big a tragedy as VTech is, I think it's a little early to see this as a massive trend.
     
  24. OncoCaP

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    How did this person pass a gun background check? When we have mental issue, that needs to be flagged and such a person should not be able to purchase a gun (easily, legally). People are more worried about respecting privacy than protecting the students on campus.

    It is probably too difficult for them to have acted in this case. Maybe an adjustment is in order that if an instructor (or student for that matter) thinks there is a safety threat that this be taken as seriously and investigated with a similar vigilance to a child abuse or sexual abuse claim (albeit still fairly ... if the evidence is not there, so be it ...). I suspect that there were people unqualified / powerless evaluating this situation and no one is being held responsible for these life and death decisions. Once you make people (like the administration) liable for negligent investigations, you would find them taking these kinds of threats much more seriously.

    I realize that there is a balance, and I'm not sure that the "answer" lies where we are today, on the side of more freedom or a Soviet state where you need to get permission to travel to another city. I think there is some room for making adjustments no matter how nervous this topic makes people or how difficult it is to decide what to do in setting rules and laws for this.
     
  25. eternalrage

    eternalrage Even Kal has bad days...
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    A new age is upon us.
    An age of freedom.
    And all will know that 300 spartans
    Gave their last breaths to defend it.
     
  26. notdeadyet

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    Good point. I think VTech had the ability to toss the guy out and chose not to.

    There are probably dozens of stalkers who never take it any further than that, but those folks still really scare me. That sort of fixation just seems to lend itself to violence. I think criminal stalking should just be one of those red flags we take very seriously. Peeping toms too. Troubling.
     
  27. OncoCaP

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    Yes agreed. Because no one is held responsible for these kinds of decisions to evaluated potential killers, the answer is often not to do anything. By requiring a documented investigation into violent threats to students we could still respect privacy (much like we would in a child abuse or sexual harassment accusation) while protecting innocent people to the extent that we know how to do so fairly.
     
  28. notdeadyet

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    I don't want to go too far down the gun control path (disclosure: I think it's way too easy to buy a gun in this country).

    But the problem is if this Cho fellow didn't have a criminal history. He may have been counseled by campus authorities for something, but that wouldn't go on any federally-accessible record.

    Nor should it. Campus "authorities" do not have to live up to the same stringent rules of law that public authorities do. You get a lot of kangaroo courts on college campuses.
     
  29. notdeadyet

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    College campuses can't even handle parking and enrollment without screwing the pooch. I think the danger does not lie in colleges not doing enough to protect students but in trying to do too much.

    If a student is thought to be a danger, he should be investigated by authorities. Police. Not hall monitors, not deans. And if any criminal action is taken, the campus should react strongly and firmly to it. Kids a stalker? Goodbye.

    But I wouldn't want a college in charge of that. It's too important and it's not what they do.
     
  30. OncoCaP

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    I haven't had any trouble with campus authorities, but maybe there are fairness issues here. If I read the story correctly, the girls that were being stalked dropped the charges so there was nothing they could do.

    When you have a large campus of 20K+ students, you are going to get some folks with issues. It seems that everyone who looked into this could see a problem, but no one had the authority or obligation to do anything about it until it was too late.

    Maybe there should be requirements that certain cases be turned over to qualified city police or another group that is qualified to handle this. I'm not sure that your average city police officer or investigator has the time or training to sort these things out either. Maybe there needs to be something specific for this threat since it seems to be common enough to serve as an embarrassment for our country.
     
  31. omegaxx

    omegaxx New Member
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    This is a very throught-provoking thread. I'll just throw in my $0.02.

    It appears to me that there should be some kind of study done to establish a formula for tabulating and summing up all the risk factors. Students writing plays about Oedipal murders, having suicidal thoughts or stalking ppl by msging them are a dime a dozen. Mass murders such as this are rare.

    There are formulae criminal psychologists and psychiatrists use to access the danger level of an inmate and their likelihood of reoffending based on past records, interviews and other assessments. However, as it has already been brought up in this thread, we are talking about adult students here, not offenders who have lost certain privacy rights.

    I wonder if the screening procedure can go something like the following: a preliminary screening on individuals that professors and fellow students repeatedly report to be of concern and, should the results be highly significant, a follow-up examination involving past records.

    Or maybe VT has already done that, only they haven't decided to track Seung past the preliminary screening stage, in which stage it's really a failure of methodology rather than anything else.
     
  32. OncoCaP

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    My guess is that once you have established that someone is a threat, there is a lot of discretion on what to do next. We've read about school bombings & shootings that have been prevented by aggressive investigation and response elsewhere around the U.S. It is this decisionmaker (the police investigator, school administrator, who decides what to do now that have a threat, now what do we do?) that I want to hold liable for their decision. Telling the potentially violent student that "you need to go to counseling" (and not even verifying that this treatment is appropriate, effective, or being carried out) seems negligent to me.
     
  33. imable24

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    I have to point out that this kid(from what I've seen) didn't have any mental problems(at least on record) until he went to college. So screening wouldn't have changed anything. And the professor(Nikki Giovanni) who took him out of her creative writing class said she thought he was mean and disruptive. However, she also said she never feared for her life or the life of her students.

    And the stalking, the worst description I've seen was that his phone calls and IMs were annoying. And the girls he stalked never pressed charges and didn't consider him threatening.

    Maybe I'm more numb than others. But there are plenty of kids I can think of right now who act somewhat similar to this kid. Being weird,mean, and annoying isn't a crime and it's not enough for a university to kick you out of school. I don't think it was ever established that he was definite threat to others, so the school can't and (IMO) shouldn't have taken more action beyond what they did.
     
  34. 35m

    35m New Member
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    Screening would only make things worse.

    In the absence of screening, he expressed himself, and it was clear to others that he was troubled. This presented an oppurtunity for others to talk with him and potentially help him.

    If there were screening, he simply would have avoided public displays of the screened activities. If writing such plays lead to investigations, students would not write such plays. But screening would not alter his thoughts, and his rage would only build faster without the outlet of art.
    I think that violent impulses are normal, at least for males. Why else would there be so many violent movies and video games? The abnormal thing is the lack of moral and practical considerations which restrain men from behaving violently.
     
  35. notdeadyet

    notdeadyet Still in California
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    Those are usually high schools. It's easy to do because children do not have the same rights as adults.
    There is no right or wrong answer, so you can't hold them liable. They do not know who is a risk and who isn't because it isn't black and white.

    As soon as you start holding schools liable for the behavior of their students and force them to react "aggresively", you will find that every woman wearing a burka called before school officials for possibly being a terrorist ("hey, we've received lots of student complaints") and every black student called before school officials for possibly being a threat ("hey, he looked really intimidating").
     
  36. OncoCaP

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    You could be right. He could be one of many, and most of his "kind" never pose a threat. On the other hand, he may fit a profile of a mass-murderer perfectly. We just don't know at this point. I have never encountered anyone like this in my many years of school, so maybe I have higher expectations. My guess is that there are few guidelines about what a school should do when someone poses a threat (no matter how big or small). I get the impression that we need an organized approach for dealing with problems like this and we should make it as objective a process as possible.
     
  37. notdeadyet

    notdeadyet Still in California
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    I agree.

    I don't know why we should put in place special protections for college students that we don't roll out on public communities. Colleges can't violate the rights of their students any more than the police should mine. And colleges don't need to take any herculian efforts to protect their students from harm any more than my employer does.
     
  38. OncoCaP

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    I'm not sure that killers like this think so logically about this or can control themselves this well. When you can't control your feelings and impulses, you will slip up. A few might hide their true nature perfectly, but I don't get the impression that Cho kept anything close to a "normal" profile. If you look at most of the school killers, they left many many tracks. In nearly all cases, it seems people just didn't take them seriously. Sure, they aren't going to brandish their weapon until they are ready, but there are other signs ... plenty of other signs. The question is whether there are certain behaviors that are more indicative of a mass-murderer than others. In other words, given certain behaviors and thoughts, how sure can we be that a person will snap at a difficult moment. Maybe there could be a risk scale of some kind that requires different degress of action / intervention as the risk increases.

    I'm not sure that employers should be the model on accountability or responsibility without careful examination. Your employer might violate OSHA or environmental laws or ethical standards as well. I'm curious about what should be done, not only about what is being done.
     
  39. omegaxx

    omegaxx New Member
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    I have always been of the opinion that something like this doesn't happen out of the blues. Some studies need to be done in profiling such mass murderers and determining if any of their previous behaviours show a high correlation to mass murder, using people who have also been suspected of being "scary" on the basis of behaviour but never committed any offence as controls.
    I just read Richard McBeef which is nothing that out of the ordinary. However, the fact that Seung wrote two plays on precisely the same topic warrants some investigation. Probability of child abuse has also been raised. It's just very, very sad that no one looked into the whole matter beforehand.
     
  40. omegaxx

    omegaxx New Member
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    Perhaps it's because that college is particularly vulnerable to such attacks? Someone with the statistics can back or disprove me on this.
     
  41. notdeadyet

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    I read once that the three most common characteristics of mass murderers were:

    * History of abusing animals
    * Bedwetting

    The number that had one if not two of these were very, very high. But do we pull aside students who have wet their bed?

    The problem with prevention of murder based on indicators is that the indicators are usually quite common and almost alwasy benign.

    Ask this: how many college mass murders have there been in this country over the past century? A handful at most? Looking for patterns in such a small sample is probably not realistic.
     
  42. notdeadyet

    notdeadyet Still in California
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    The point of college to me was that it teaches why folks should not be prosecuted or investigated for what they read or write.
     
  43. notdeadyet

    notdeadyet Still in California
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    Yeah, I don't have the statistics either. But I'd be willing to bet that a vast majority of college campuses (if not almost all) are safer than the communities around them.
     
  44. OncoCaP

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    Usually in an employment situation you aren't going to have 100 people tightly packed into a room. Maybe 6 or 8 people will die in an extreme attack on a place of work. To kill 20+ the victims need to in close proximity, like in a classroom or stadium. This is why they often have metal detectors at stadiums and security looking for people with guns. Our schools are vulnerable because they are such easy targets and require more protection than they have today. Anyone with a violent desire can inflict massive casualties and become infamous on CNN around the whole world ... we should deny such killers this easy pleasure.
     
  45. ssquared

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    I read the play as well, and I didn't really think it was anything out of the ordinary. If anybody's read Mourning Becomes Electra, it's got similar themes, but that play's a classic. You can hardly conclude that a person is disturbed because they write stuff that has violence in it.

    The problem with figuring out what kind of people commit such acts is that we have such a small (thankfully) number of incidents to go off of. With an n < 5, what can we truly conclude about any of the people involved? It's not enough to have emotional problems; most people who are simply depressed do not have impulses to kill others. Obviously there's a lot more at work here. I do agree that studying people who do terrible things might give us some clues, but I'm not really sure what that information would do for us, or what we could do with the info.
     
  46. omegaxx

    omegaxx New Member
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    Two very good points.

    So is primary prevention, e.g. increased accessibility to mental health support groups, training of professors and staff to spot dangerous behaviours, and the implantation of clear guidelines, the only way to go?
     
  47. notdeadyet

    notdeadyet Still in California
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    Then by this logic, we should also protect restaurants. And churches. And movie theatres. Do we really want a rash of protective measures based on vulnerability?
     
  48. omegaxx

    omegaxx New Member
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    Same here:p I'd still talk to the student who writes repeatedly on sexual abuse (with no really aesthetic licence) if I were an English prof, just as I'd talk to the kid who comes to me all the time with suspicious bruisings if I were a family doctor. Maybe that's just me.
     
  49. notdeadyet

    notdeadyet Still in California
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    I think good-hearted human beings have a habit of looking to solve problems that don't have solutions.

    A kid walked into a crowded classroom and killed a whole lot of people with a gun. To prevent this we could:

    1. Prevent him from access to guns
    2. Prevent him from access to classrooms
    3. Stop his desire to behave this way

    But I don't think any of these is realistic at this time. I don't think we are ready for draconian measures to prevent what just doesn't happen all that often.

    We could require metal detectors on the door to every classroom, but as big a tragedy as VTech was, it just doesn't happen often enough to justify it. A person with a weapon, the intent and the desire can kill just about anyone.
     
  50. notdeadyet

    notdeadyet Still in California
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    You would be a good teacher for doing so. Pulling Johnny aside and saying, "is everything okay at home" is just good teaching. Turning him over to the authorities because he likes to write about violence would not be.

    Good analogy with the family doctor and bruising. I like that.
     
  51. ssquared

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    I had a teacher in high school who reported me to our school psychologist because I had asked for an extension on a paper due to being a bit overloaded. If she had pulled me aside and asked about it, I would have told her it was because I was going out of town for a week and I needed a few extra days. Instead, I had to sit through a humiliating examination where I had to prove that I wasn't crazy. Reporting people just makes them mad. It's one thing if he had made threats, but writing strange things doesn't warrant police intervention.

    Although this particular guy was obviously on a different plane than most people. I can only imagine what his reaction was in regards to being turned over to the police.
     

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