School Shooting Copycats Feared
May. 22, 1998
There's good reason to be worried about copycat attacks after the Oregon school shooting, psychologists say.
N. G. Berrill, a forensic psychologist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said all the publicity can capture the attention of a vulnerable child _ a kid who is angry, confused, lacking a sense of right and wrong, and unable to cope with some conflict in his life.
Such children might react by thinking ``maybe we could do this, too. This will really fix some people's wagons,'' Berrill said.
The tragedy in Springfield, Ore., on Thurday followed several other school shootings around the country in the past few months, in communities such as West Paducah, Ky., Pearl, Miss., Jonesboro, Ark., and Edinboro, Pa.
Such attacks get attention from the media and the public that makes violence ``more available as a script for one of the things you do if you're really unhappy with how things are going at school, or how you've been treated at work,'' said Jeff Smalldon, a clinical and forensic psychologist in Columbus, Ohio.
Several experts said a child who commits copycat violence might well have become violent anyway, though not necessarily through the particular means he copied.
``Whether someone is a potential shooter or bomber, that's there anyway,'' said Tony Farrenkopf, a clinical forensic psychologist in Portland, Ore.