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It’s not your imagination, and it’s not media hype. School shootings stay in the news because they strike at our hearts:  killing of innocent young people in places where they should feel secure.

A recent study found that when such a tragic event happens, there is approximately a 13-day “contagion” period in which another such incident is more likely to occur.

Best-selling journalist Malcolm Gladwell says he sees a trend in these events, one that is based on what he calls thresholds.  In an article written three years ago, Gladwell predicted that school shootings would become more and more common, as natural resistance or “thresholds” would fall when shootings became more prevalent.  His reasoning was that after one or two people do something, the idea of “joining” them in similar acts becomes much more reasonable in the minds of some observers.

Gladwell says:  “Social processes are driven by our thresholds—which he defined as the number of people who need to be doing some activity before we agree to join them. . . riots were started by people with a threshold of zero—instigators willing to throw a rock through a window at the slightest provocation. Then comes the person who will throw a rock if someone else goes first. He has a threshold of one. Next in is the person with the threshold of two. His qualms are overcome when he sees the instigator and the instigator’s accomplice. Next to him is someone with a threshold of three, who would never break windows and loot stores unless there were three people right in front of him who were already doing that—and so on up to the hundredth person, a righteous upstanding citizen who nonetheless could set his beliefs aside and grab a camera from the broken window of the electronics store if everyone around him was grabbing cameras from the electronics store.”

What are the solutions to this snowballing phenomenon?

  • Some experts think more mental health screening and treatment needs to be available in schools.
  • Some people think the solution is the restriction of firearms, or repealing of the U. S. Constitution’s Second Amendment which allows citizens to keep and bear arms.
  • A Texas State University organization advocates not publicizing the names or photos of school shooters, thus robbing them of the publicity they seek.
  • Some say the solution is increased security personnel in schools, or at least airport-type security to cut down on weapons being brought to schools.
  • Others say teachers and school staff should carry weapons.
  • Other say that modifying classrooms is the solution: requiring two doors on each classroom, or bulletproof shelters in each class.

While Gladwell’s predictions are chilling and social psychology would support his hypothesis, I’m not sure that we can generalize his hypothesis to healthy individuals.

However, I do know that Christian parents have a duty and responsibility to their children, to teach Biblical principles about respect for authority and for other human beings. If we do that job well, we can make a big difference in the lives of our children and our schools.