Sandy Hook

"A Feminized Setting"

Today National Review published an op-ed piece by Charlotte Allen, in which she contends that a male presence in Sandy Hook Elementary School could have prevented much of the slaughter:

In this school of 450 students, a sizeable number of whom were undoubtedly 11- and 12-year-old boys (it was a K–6 school), all the personnel—the teachers, the principal, the assistant principal, the school psychologist, the “reading specialist”—were female. There didn’t even seem to be a male janitor to heave his bucket at Adam Lanza’s knees. Women and small children are sitting ducks for mass-murderers… Male aggression can be a good thing, as in protecting the weak—but it has been forced out of the culture of elementary schools and the education schools that train their personnel. Think of what Sandy Hook might have been like if a couple of male teachers who had played high-school football, or even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys, had converged on Lanza.

This is asinine. As far as I can tell, there is no evidence that Dawn Hochsprung, the principal who attempted to charge Lanza, failed in her attempt because of her feminine weakness. She failed because Lanza had semi-automatic weapons and she did not. Suggesting that a male former football player could have fared better against multiple bullets is farcical, and wishing that some of the larger school children would have physically accosted the shooter borders on sociopathic.

Kids, Mental Illness and Violence

In light of the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Jill Filipovic urges us to be careful when parsing these issues:

The terrifying truth is that sometimes, there is no easy “cure” for the mental illnesses that mean a lack of empathy and a propensity toward violence. What’s needed is ongoing treatment and enormous social support for people who are ill, because there’s often not one pill you can take to simply cure a complex problem. This mother, for example, writes about a son who has violent outbursts and who she seems to believe is actually capable of killing her. He’s 13. There aren’t many options for him—the best a social worker can offer is to get him convicted of a crime so that he’s in “the system.” But it’s pretty clear that “the system” is not a good place for mentally ill children (or mentally ill adults). At the same time, this boy is a physical threat not just to his mother, but to his siblings and the people he encounters every day. What it sounds like he needs is ongoing, regular mental health care and therapy in addition to medication (if they can ever find one that works). And he’s not the only one — as Feministe friend Kate Harding also pointed out, there are kids who fit the profile of psychopathy, whose treatment options are less than clear-cut.

I can certainly attest to this, having worked with several young men who clearly needed to be in more acute care than a group home but whose case workers or probation officers seemed to have no better solutions to offer them.