School Climate & Safety

Books on School Shootings Offer Advice, Warnings

By Amy Wickner — December 14, 2012 2 min read
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Today’s horrible news—a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., left 20 children and six adults dead—has prompted a flood of anguish over school violence and its underlying causes. Nine recent releases and older titles from the library here at Education Week offer perspectives on school shootings from the post-Columbine era.

The Columbine School Shooting by Louise I. Gerdes (Greenhaven Press, 2012). Part of Greenhaven’s Perspectives on Modern World History series, this book attempts to explain the Columbine High School tragedy, its causes, and its aftermath to young adult readers.

Reclaiming School in the Aftermath of Trauma: Advice Based on Experience edited by Carolyn Lunsford Mears (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). Mears, a parent at Columbine, titled her EdD PhD dissertation, Experiences of Columbine Parents: Finding a Way to Tomorrow. Here she expands the scope of her research to explore how traumatic incidents from shootings to natural disasters can affect schools.

Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters by Peter Langman (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). Langman identifies and analyzes three types of young people who engage in large-scale school violence: psychopathic shooters, psychotic shooters, and traumatized shooters.

Books, Blackboards, and Bullets: School Shootings and Violence in America by Marcel Lebrun (Roman & Littlefield, 2009). An account of school violence research and preventative measures, written by an educator and former counselor.

School Crisis Case Studies, Volume Two: Before Another Shooting Occurs by Helen M. Sharp (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009). The companion title to an earlier Volume One—which addressed a broad range of violent behaviors in schools—this book focuses on school shootings and preventative measures schools can take.

Ceremonial Violence: A Psychological Explanation of School Shootings by Jonathan Fast (Overlook Press, 2008). Using five years of research into five separate shooting incidents, Fast lays out the internal and external forces acting upon young people driven to violence. In some cases, internal pressures of various kinds result in violence incidents; in others, “socialization into extreme violence” is at work.

Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings by Katherine S. Newman (Basic Books, 2004). Newman, a sociologist and administrator at Johns Hopkins University, published this book during her tenure as the dean of social science at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. She argues that while incidents of school violence may seem to erupt from nowhere, their roots often run deep, and signs of their imminence can be clearly present.

There and Back Again: School Shootings as Experienced by School Leaders by Albert H. Fein (Scarecrow Press, 2003). Fein’s title is no accident: He’s used J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit as a framing narrative for this exploration of school shooting incidents and their aftermaths. Interviews with 19 school leaders close to the incidents provide much of the raw material for this book.

Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence from the National Research Council Institute of Medicine (The National Academies Press, 2002). The Columbine High School shooting prompted widespread examination of school violence throughout the late 1980s and 1990s. This book collects the National Research Council’s findings and can be downloaded in its entirety for free.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the BookMarks blog.