During the past decade, America has witnessed a rise in mass murders carried out by youth leaving parents, teachers and school officials scrambling to figure out the motive behind such attacks. The 1999 massacre at Columbine High School was a watershed moment in American history that offered, besides grief and sorrow for lost loved ones, clues as to how to prevent copycat massacres at school campuses in the future. Theories abound in the hopes of explaining why Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 and injured 21 others, yet very few hold true as time progresses and other massacres unfold. Modern-day schools have atmospheres that foster bullying and a divided social class system. The attacks perpetrated by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold at Columbine High School were the result of prolonged bullying coupled with violent video games and remarkably easy access to guns that gave rise to a need to exact revenge on their peers; all of which places this event among the deadliest school-related shootings in American history.
The events that unfolded at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999 marked a tragic day in American history as 15 students, including the murderers themselves, were killed and 21 others were injured. Law enforcement officials, teachers and parents were at a loss to explain how and why this could happen. Thomas J. Billitteri says, “the shootings also opened discussion on the psychology of troubled students, leading some critics to argue that school administrators and policymakers were focusing on truancy and drugs and not enough on the problem of bullying as a catalyst for violent student behavior.” Here Billitteri emphasizes the need to shift the focus from blaming drugs to the widespread phenomenon of school bullying. Jesse Klein, in The Huffington Post writes:
This excerpt from the personal journal of Eric Harris himself gives proof to the notion that he was bullied, and that this may have been a motivating factor in perpetrating the mass murder. The line specifically, “who have chosen not to accept me, who have treated me like I am not worth their time are dead” suggests a sense of detachment from the larger body of students that led to being ridiculed and the subsequent decision to murder those who chose to not accept him. Not being accepted is a common element in any case of bullying; something about Harris and Klebold set them apart from their peers so much that it enabled the jeers and ridicule they were subjected to during their time at Columbine High School which, in turn, led Eric Harris to ultimately seek out revenge. According to Cindy Beltz’s research on the Columbine High School massacre, Harris and Klebold were taunted daily at school:
Here one can see that the boys lived a nightmare as they were humiliated and forced to live through degrading treatment by students who felt they were superior to them.
Yet the notion that bullying may have caused the massacre at Columbine High School is a chilling one, as it...