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June 3, 1998, The Cincinnati Enquirer, Why Kids Kill, Q&A with the experts, by Marie McCain,

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June 3, 1998, The Cincinnati Enquirer, Why Kids Kill, Q&A with the experts, by Marie McCain,


Q&A with the experts


Experts answer common questions about child violence:






'We talk about it sometimes at home with my family members. We talk about it to see, like, where is society going? I mean, what would possess these little kids to do something like this?'

-- Jonathan Wander, 15,

New Richmond High School



'You need to restrict the availability (of weapons). If the parents didn't have them around the house to use then you're not going to have them shooting people around school.'

-- Allison Gideon, 15,

Wyoming High School




'This happens in urban areas all the time, but nobody really cares because it happens all the time. If something like that happened in Wyoming it would get a lot of press. It would be the next Jonesboro.'

-- Ben Margolis, 18,

Wyoming High School




'What gets me is the amount of chances we give these people. Like that kid in Oregon, there's still four people dead, no matter what you do to the kid. You can rehabilitate him for 10 years, but there are still four people dead.'

-- Fred Wolfinger, 15,

New Richmond High



'If I knew somebody had a gun I would definitely tell a teacher because if I knew my peers' lives were in danger, if I knew that something could happen, it's definitely not worth taking the chance.'

-- Krista Renner, 14,

Conner Middle School


Q: Why do kids kill kids?


A: "The bottom line is we are not really sure what causes these incidents," said Robert R. Butterworth, a psychologist who has extensively surveyed on children, youth and social and political trauma issues.


"These experts that want to blame these murders on the media, video games or guns have failed to understand the research on violence and children and the role of personality in creating these youngsters," he said.


Gerald J. Bostwick, a University of Cincinnati associate professor and sociologist, also believes there is no definitive reason why kids kill kids.


He also speculated that personality has a lot to do with it.


"You could take any other kid and put them in the exact same situation (as these accused shooters) and this might not have happened," Mr. Bostwick said. "Some kids have more sensitive temperaments and are not good at handling criticism from adults or their peers.


"They may not be very good at problem-solving and are easily overwhelmed by problems."


Q: How can a parent tell if his child has gone outside rational means of problem solving and cannot sufficiently relieve his or her frustrations?


A: "Most children who commit murder show an early combination of personality and family factors that include having trouble getting along with playmates," Mr. Butterworth said.


"According to a review of psychological and criminal research, early delinquent and aggressive children have delayed emotional and intellectual functioning early on."


Joseph Zins, a University of Cincinnati professor of education and a licensed psychologist, says a parent has to talk to his or her children. "They need to have a good relationship with their kids and provide supervision as well as appropriate pro-social behavior."


Once the child has begun to talk, a parent needs to listen.


"You have to begin at an early age by listening to your child. But when I say listening, I mean accepting what they say. It does not mean you approve . . . just listen," Mr. Zins said.


Experts say the precursors of potentially violent outbursts include: anti-social behavior; delinquent behavior; a fascination with violence, weapons, or explosive devices; cruelty to animals; depression; an addiction to drugs or alcohol; and believing they don't have a purpose or are not emotionally important to anyone.


Q: Is a history of problems always a sure sign of future trouble?


A: "Eighty percent of children that commit violent and anti-social acts have an earlier history of disruptive behavior known to both parents and teachers way before a major occurrence erupts that creates headlines worldwide," Mr. Butterworth said.




 Behind the school fear


 Experts debate nature, nurture


Q: When should a child's threat against someone else be taken seriously?


A: "One thing this whole thing is showing, is that to a certain extent everything needs to be taken seriously," Mr. Zins said. Co-author of Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guidelines for Educators, he says children need guidelines.


"Kids need to know what's appropriate and what's not. What if you heard your child say he was going to commit suicide? Would you let that go?" he asked.


Q: What should you do if your child has been threatened or knows of a child who has threatened another?


A: Mr. Butterworth says to talk to the child immediately and if necessary get the principal or a school counselor involved.


"We have to care about each other," he said.


Mr. Zins agreed.


By not teaching kids how to use nonviolent action to solve problems, people support violent actions, he said.


"This is not a school problem, so much as a societal problem. The solution has to come not just from parents and not just from schools. It's got to be everybody working together."

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