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An excerpt from
Learning from Littleton
Experts discuss the right lessons—and the wrong ones.

By Fiona Morgan
Originally published at Salon, Mothers Who Think, April 27, 1999.

Andrew Vachss, attorney who represents only juveniles.

There are two kinds of school killings. One is attachment disorder, a sole individual with an inability to bond, and the other is folie á deux. Here it's probably a form of folie á deux, a situation where none of the parties acting alone would have done it. The more isolated the players feel and perceive themselves to be, the more they look toward one another. One element of this is cluster suicide. These kids who clearly entered the school with the intention of dying, I think in some way were motivated by the attention and focus that others got for similar acts, but lacking the perception to see what it would cost in real terms.

Any expressed interest in an extermination philosophy such as Nazism is enough of a warning sign for anybody. Nazism has always appealed to inadequates and defectives, because it always explains all their problems. It wasn't a Jewish school, it wasn't heavily populated with people of color, so they did what a lot of disturbed people do with Nazism, morph it a little bit. "We're superior, the rest of these people are defectives. They're oppressing us because of our superiority. They need to be exterminated."

I'm not convinced that any new get–tough measures would have had any effect at all at Littleton. Here's a paraphrase of a quote: "Juvenile criminals are a new breed today. They're monstrous. They seem to care nothing about human life. They represent almost a feral, predatory creature for which we need new interventions." That's from 1948. None of those waves of get–tough juvenile legislation, which began in the '50s, have ever had crime–cutting effects. Once you're at a point where your own life is part of what you're anteing up, I don't believe get–tough does much. What you need to talk about is preventing that deadly flower from reaching full bloom. When you come across the extermination philosophy, I think you have to step in right then. It would be a confrontative intervention. Although there's a First Amendment and people can say whatever they want, it's not difficult to engage young people to the point where they're going past speech.

This is an excerpt from the article "Learning from Littleton"
to read the article in its entirety, please click here.


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