In my reviews of books about school shootings, I’ve looked at the shooters, the parents, the bullies and even explored how much an influence music was in the story. So now, I’m going to take a look at the schools in each case and ask, “Could the school have done more to prevent the bullying and possibly stop the tragedy that resulted from it?”
In this post, I will begin with “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult. In this story, the protagonist, Peter, is bullied from his first day of school until the fateful day nearly twelve years later when he goes into the school with two pistols and two rifles and carries out a shooting rampage that kills ten and wounds eight. Could the school have done anything?
Early in the story, when Peter is Kindergarden, the teacher sees he’s getting bullied and her answer to the problem was to teach him how to stand up for himself. As we see it doesn’t work and Peter’s life continues to be a living hell. After that, there is practically no evidence of any school trying to deal with Peter’s bullying. Yes, school staff seem to know it’s going on but don’t seem to want to do anything about it.
The most damning evidence against the school comes at Peter’s trial. First, the gym teacher is called to the stand and he states that he is familiar with the school’s bullying policy but he never sees the need to address it. Jodi does leave the reader, at least me anyway, with the impression that the teacher’s lack of concern for Peter’s plight is down to the fact that the bullies are the top jocks in the school. Therefore, he turns a blind eye to his boys while they make their victim’s life a misery.
Second is Peter’s friend, Derek, who is called as a witness for the prosecution. He testifies under cross examination the bullying he and Peter went through in school. When asked why he didn’t tell the school about the bullying, he says that the school wouldn’t have done anything and it would have made the bullying worse. Now, you are probably thinking that the school would denounce Derek’s statement but there is no indication of that in the story.
From the evidence Jodi produces in her novel, I am left to conclude that the school did nothing to halt the bullying of Peter. In reality, the school would have tried to hide behind the excuse that it was never officially reported to them but everyone knew it was going on. Plus, the fear of the victims or further reprisals from the bullies if they told on them is even more damning of the school. Therefore, the school is just as guilty for the deaths resulting from the shooting as the person who carried it out.
To buy He Was Weird, go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Was-Weird-Publisher-Generation-Publishing/dp/B00SLVHRFG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1512983398&sr=1-1&keywords=he+was+weird