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The Bully Society

School Shootings and the Crisis of Bullying in America’s Schools

Jessica Klein

Publication Year: 2012

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix-xi

I was inspired by so many people as I was researching and writing this book. Here, I’ve tried to thank those most directly involved. I can only hope that if I have understated or neglected to mention anyone’s contribution, they will know in their hearts how much I appreciated their support...

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Introduction: The Gender Police

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pp. 1-10

In October 1997, I heard on the radio that Luke Woodham, a sixteen-year-old, had killed two classmates and wounded seven others in a school shooting in Pearl, Mississippi. In a note, Luke declared: “I am not insane. I am angry. I killed because people like me are mistreated every...

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1. Social Status Wars

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pp. 11-42

The twenty-three-year-old Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui had been relentlessly teased and bullied throughout middle school and high school. He was angry at what he perceived as an unjust school hierarchy that privileged the wealthy. Before he killed thirty-two people and...

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2. Masculinity and White Supremacy

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pp. 43-56

On December 1, 1997, in West Paducah, Kentucky, a skinny, short, bespectacled, fourteen-year-old Heath High School freshman named Michael Carneal rode to school with his seventeen-year-old sister, Kelly. Unbeknownst to her, he placed in the trunk of her Mazda two shotguns, two...

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3. Violence against Girls

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pp. 57-79

In October 1997, Luke Woodham beat and stabbed his mother to death before hiding a gun under his coat and making his way to his Pearl, Mississippi, high school, where he killed two students and wounded seven others. His main target, he said, was his first victim, his...

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4. Gay Bashing

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pp. 81-95

On the morning of February 2, 1996, fourteen-year-old Barry Loukaitis dressed in the clothing he had laid out the night before: black pants, black shirt, black cowboy boots and cowboy hat, and a long black trench coat his mother had bought him. He strapped on a holster...

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5. Girl Bashing

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pp. 97-111

Elizabeth Bush was fourteen years old on March 7, 2001, when she took her father’s gun to the cafeteria at Bishop Neumann High School in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and started shooting. Her only victim, a thirteen-year-old girl whom Elizabeth had once considered a friend, was wounded in the...

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6. Cyber-Bullying

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pp. 113-125

“Bullying for our parents was getting beat up, stuffed in a locker, getting stuff stolen from you,” said Austin Charles, a junior at South Carolina’s Socastee High School. “I don’t know that physical bullying happens very much around here. Cyber-bullying happens a lot.” He continued: “Some people...

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7. Adult Bullies

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pp. 127-154

Eric and his friend Dylan Klebold were, of course, the ones who made the vicious choice to pick up guns and respond to bullying with murder. Like so many other school shooters, however, they were left largely on their own to deal with the humiliation, exclusion, and violence they faced...

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8. The Bully Economy

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pp. 155-178

Schools are microcosms of American society where students are told that financial wealth and superficial gender markers are compulsory for social acceptance. They learn these lessons from each other but also from grown-ups—parents, teachers, and the wider culture they inhabit. As they prepare...

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9. America Is from Mars, Europe Is from Venus

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pp. 179-204

On November 7, 2007, Pekka-Eric Auvinen took a pistol to Jokela High School in Tuusula, Finland, a quiet lakeside town thirty miles north of Helsinki. Pekka-Eric, an eighteen-year-old student at the school, shot its principal, the school nurse, and six students and injured twelve others before...

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10. Creating Kinder Schools and Cyberspaces

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pp. 205-231

A transformation of the larger bully society, as well as the microcosms that exist in schools, would require systemic social and economic change, accompanied by sweeping changes in perspectives, attitudes, and behaviors. Our educational system alone cannot bring about such change. Nevertheless, our...

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Conclusion: From a Bully Society to Compassionate Communities

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pp. 233-243

On the first day in one of my criminal justice classes, I asked my students to tell me why they thought school shootings occurred. One student said something similar to what many of the Columbine jocks said about Eric and Dylan after Columbine. “They couldn’t take the bullying. Why didn’t...

Appendix: Methodology

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pp. 245-255


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pp. 257-285


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pp. 287-305

About the Author

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pp. 307

E-ISBN-13: 9780814771495
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814748886
Print-ISBN-10: 0814748880

Publication Year: 2012