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Campus shooting epidemic

world Updated: Apr 19, 2009 22:57 IST
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The epidemic of shooting rampages in universities and schools has become a "global phenomenon" that calls out for more investment in education and monitoring of students, according to Lucinda Roy, a professor at Virginia Tech.

Just over two years ago a 23-year-old South Korean man, one of Roy's students, shot dead 32 students and teachers before killing himself, in the bloodiest campus killing spree in US history.

Now, ten years after the infamous Columbine High School massacre that left 13 people dead and 23 others wounded, English professor Roy published a book No Right to Remain Silent that calls for stronger counselling services for troubled students.

Roy was the only teacher who observed warning signs with the Virginia Tech killer, Cho Seung-Hui. She pointed out her worries to the school's pyschological services, but due to strict rules of confidentiality, the college failed to register Cho's potential danger.

“We are very poor at responding to troubled students and severely disturbed students,” Roy said. “That's true not just for Virginia Tech but throughout the United States and other countries as well,” she said, noting that there was only one counselor for every 2,700 students at Virginia Tech at that time.

After the killings, the number of students seeking psychological help jumped from 8,000 (in the 2005/2006 school year) to 11,000 (in 2007/2008), out of a total student population of 29,000.

What Virginia Tech experienced was “not an aberration but a mounting rage among a small minority of young people who see themselves as both victims and vigilantes,” she writes.

University shootings have become “a global phenomenon, and Finland, Germany have seen attacks fairly recently,” said Roy. Germany reeled last month after 15 people were gunned down near Stuttgart by a teenager who took his father's gun and went on a vicious rampage in his old school.

Education systems can be very impersonal, Roy said.

“Students can go through the system, especially in large schools, and be almost invisible, never be asked for their name or to answer a question.”

The key, according to Roy, is more education, and specifically, more writing, where the problem is often first noticed. Creative writing can allow “tremendous freedom,” said Roy. "Students feel there are in a safe space and they write what's on their mind.”