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Suzano and Columbine: what do both school massacres have in common

Suzano and Columbine: what do both school massacres have in common

In Suzano, the outfit wore by the shooters suggest they might have been influenced by the series American Horror Story, which has an episode inspired by the Columbine massacre

Denise Drechsel and Isabelle Barone

It is still not known what drove two 17 and 25-year-old shooters to fire against dozens of people at the Raul Brasil State School, in Suzano (SP), causing the death of at least ten people. Witnesses of the tragedy reported that the aggressors were ex-students of the institution and seem to want to take revenge on professors and employees of the school.

Nothing has yet been confirmed, but it is very likely that the Suzano tragedy was inspired by the famous massacre in Columbine, in the state of Colorado, United States, in 1999, when two students prepared, in a cinematic action, a revenge after suffering years of bullying, killing 13 people and wounding 27.

The traditional Suzano school and Columbine

The Raul Brasil State School is located at a traditional and peaceful region of Suzano, an “oasis” in the municipality, according to local inhabitants. Considered a quality school, its admissions are hotly disputed year after year: both from the 5th to the 9th grade of elementary school as in high school years, the school’s performance at the IDEB, Brazil’s teaching quality index, is above the national average (5.8 in the final years of elementary school and 4.1 in high school).

Reports of local inhabitants say that the shooters lived in the vicinity, entered the school at an opportune time – close to the interval between classes – and went straight to the principal’s office – which means they knew very well the place – where they killed her. Both took along with them peculiar objects for their act: besides .38 caliber guns, the shooters had a crossbow, axes, a box of explosives and bottles to be used as Molotov cocktails.

The scenario, the weapons used and their final suicide are similar to the shooting at Columbine High School, a US high school located in Columbine, in the state of Colorado, in April 20, 1999.

At the time, two of the school’s students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, killed twelve students, one teacher, and wounded 27 people, in an attack previously and carefully planned – they hid 99 explosives in the school. Using bombs and shotguns, both spent almost one hour walking through the school’s classrooms, shooting others until they committed suicide.

In Suzano, the outfit worn by the shooters suggests they might have been influenced by the series American Horror Story, which has an episode inspired by the Columbine massacre.

Inspiration and motivation

The occurrence of this kind of massacre is usually associated to acts of revenge after their authors were bullied.

A study done at Clemson University showed a significant increase in the number of deaths in mass gun attacks in US schools in the last 20 years – 66 deaths in 13 attacks between 2000 and 2018, more than the total throughout the 20th century – and also indicated that teenagers often don’t have the intellectual and affective resources, both in school and in their families, to deal with psychological problems and violent incidents, and end up reacting in a violent way.

Another study, done by psychiatrist Timothy Brewerton with data from the 66 school attacks between 1966 and 2011, indicates that 87 percent of the shooters had been bullied, and were motivated by the desire of revenge.

The TIC Educação study, released in October last year, also pointed out a great frequency of bullying and adverse reactions. According to the study, 40 percent of Brazilian students have helped students to face problematic situations on the internet, such as bullying, discrimination, harassment, and the disseminations of unconsented images. Also according to the study, most teachers (56 percent) have held debates with the students on how to use the internet safely; and 66 percent have encouraged their students to debate these problems on the internet.

“The prolonged bullying may cause, as seen in cases such as the one in Realengo, a psychotic episode. There is a traumatic process, and since the person does not treat it adequately and end up developing, within this trauma, aggressive behaviors, violent desires of revenge, and is not able to treat these issues. The person feels rejected, wronged,” says Alexandre Saldanha, an attorney and bullying expert, member of the OAB-PR Child and Teenager Commission.

“As the years go by, a trauma is created, and the desire for revenge become something logical for the person who is suffering. It that is not treated adequately, if the school environment does not treat it, they end up maturing this feeling, internalizing it. With no adequate treatment, it eventually reaches this point [the shooting],” added Saldanha.

Columbine Effect

One concern now is that cases like this have as a consequence the so-called “Columbine Effect”, an increase in school shooting due to the imitation of real or fictional cases.

“Researches have shown that becoming famous is one of the most important objectives for this generation,” says Adam Lankford, a researcher and criminal justice professor at the University of Alabama, in an interview to Gazeta do Povo in 2017. “There is no doubt that there is an association between the media coverage dedicated to these shooters and the probability that they will act,” he says.

During the investigations of a similar episode in a Goiânia school, in October 2017, the teenager responsible for killing two classmates and injuring four others admitted to the police he was inspired by the American case.

A survey done by the FBI in 2013 involving cases since 2000 indicated an increase in the number of cases after the Columbine massacre, with an increased rise in the last years. According to the study, the number of cases increased from 6.4 in 2006 to 16.4 between 2007 and 2013.

It is expected that after Suzano schools are able to avoid a similar effect with antibullying actions and an improvement in the school environment.

School tragedies in Brazil

Here are some cases of school shootings similar to the one in Suzano (SP) on March 13, 2019. These massacres happened in different regions of the country, and were done by men, most of them teenage students or former students.

 

READ IT IN PORTUGUESE:

Suzano e Columbine: o que os dois massacres em escolas têm em comum

Em Suzano, o traje utilizado pelos atiradores sugere que eles possam ter sido influenciados pela série American Horror Story, no episódio inspirado no massacre de Columbine