The Gender Police (page 3)

In my research, however, while there are some disparities, I found more similarities among these various forms of violence. Experts also tend to fix blame on factors external to schools: severe mental illness, access to guns, or media violence, especially video games. While these issues surely play a role in the high incidence of such events, we need to ask a more fundamental question: What occurs in schools themselves, the sites, after all, of the shootings, that causes so many students to become unhappy, anxious, depressed, and motivated by rage?

This book proposes that there are inextricable connections between school shooting outbursts, the “everyday” violence of bullying, and the destructive gender pressures and social demands created by the larger culture and endured by virtually all children in our schools. Although the forms of school violence may differ, the same patterns emerge.

Boys (and, increasingly, girls) lash out to prove that they can fulfill their narrow gender prescriptions. Nearly all the school shooters were violently reacting to oppressive social hierarchies in their schools.

As I will show, the conditions that have helped spark school shootings are not aberrations; they are the norm. The hurtful and violent bullying with which teens contend has become commonplace and has reached disturbing levels. Our ubiquitous zero-tolerance policies help schools suspend or expel students who commit violence, but they do not prevent the specter of violence from returning again and again.

They certainly do nothing to halt the quieter violence, the violence students do to themselves, the depression and suicide, for instance, fostered by the same conditions. To stop school shootings as well as the more common culture of despair in our schools, we will need to transform our schools’ cultures.

In addition to examining a wide range of studies, I conducted more than sixty interviews with children and adults in the United States between March 2006 and March 2008. Since I had worked in schools for over twenty years, I had access to people in school communities that I might not otherwise have had.

I found quickly that most people had a story about either being bullied or witnessing bullying incidents. I share their stories in The Bully Society to bring to life the common situations our children experience and to show the similarities between the school shooters’ complaints and those of average American children and adults from our schools.