Written by an award-winning science and psychology journalist to help parents, teachers, and students understand the risk—and the FBI guidance for stopping the epidemic.
In MURDERS MOST FOUL: And the School Shooters in Our Midst, science and psychology journalist Rebecca Coffey reports that slaughter-style killings have hit America’s schools and universities hard since 1927. But, according to her, in the 1990s the pace of school massacres accelerated. As it did, law enforcement agencies tried heroically to compile a profile of the typical school shooter. And for a while it looked like they had succeeded; violent media, social rejection, and hormones all seemed to be part of a significant pattern. But the deeper the evidence pile became, the more unique each killer seemed–and the farther the FBI found itself from laying claim to a profile that local police and schools found helpful. One profile the FBI released–telling schools to watch for kids who needed discipline and who had feelings of isolation, anger, and rejection–described virtually every teenager at some point in virtually every day. In MURDERS MOST FOUL: And the School Shooters in Our Midst, Coffey describes how, eventually, the FBI acknowledged that school murderers come from all sorts of backgrounds, temperaments, and capabilities; they are even of many different ages (the youngest as of 2012 was 11; oldest 55). Now, with the on-campus body count rising, the FBI suggests that many or most school murderers “leak” threats before they kill. One seemingly normal high school student announced that “Monday will be the day of reckoning” the week before killing three of his peers. A high school student’s essays were riddled with off-topic scenes of carnage, and this began a good four years before he brought a hunting rifle to school and started shooting. Even Virginia Tech’s Seung-Hui Cho leaked–so much so that he was escorted by campus police to a mental hospital in the days before his rampage.With a careful look at history and in an anecdotal style, Coffey tracks the search for a “school shooter profile” that the FBI once hoped would keep schools safe, examines the twisted facts in a long-simmering debate about gun laws and school murders, and shows how the FBI’s new focus on “leakage” and “threat assessment” offers hope–but is still widely ignored by schools that have no funding to train or hire staff.
Rebecca Coffey is a frequent contributor to Scientific American and Discover magazines, is a broadcasting commentator on Vermont Public Radio, and she blogs for Psychology Today. Coffey is also an award-winning video documentarian and the author of Unspeakable Truths and Happy Endings: Human Cruelty and the New Trauma Therapy, which received abundant praise and an Outstanding Academic Book award from the American Library Association’s Choice magazine.
Pub date: March 12, 2012. Vook, Inc.