A HISTORY OF CALIFORNIA SCHOOL SHOOTINGS

BY DANA CANNING

INTRODUCTION

Shootings on school grounds is devastating. Many men, women, and children lose their lives to gun violence on a school campus each year. Violent, unnecessary situations such as these devastate the country. We experienced President Barack Obama address the overwhelming school shooting of Sandy Hook elementary. Gun violence on school grounds seems to be a newer concept, however, research suggests that’s not the case. Does social media play a role in gun violence on school campus? Are there common factors among perpetrators of gun violence on school grounds? Are school shootings a 21st century concept?

HISTORICAL ARTIFACTS

The German Sectarians of Pennsylvania: 1742-1800

Author: Julius Friedrich Sachse

Publisher: Author

Digitized: Jan 26, 2008

Media Type: Book

QUOTE

“It was during one of these meetings, while Biessel was exhorting the people, that news was received, by the arrival of a breathless postrider, of the murder, by the Indians, upon the day before (July 26, 1764,) of the schoolmaster Enoch Brown and seven of his scholars… Biessel, in the face of this great danger to the exposed settlers, counseled trust in the Almighty and deprecated a recourse to firearms and retaliation” (364-365).

 

DESCRIPTION

The author traces the peculiar history of the German Sectarian community from its beginnings to its downfall. The book recalls legends and traditions of the community. This book is the first documentation of a shooting on school ground taking place during the year 1764. Native Americans shot and killed Schoolmaster Brown. The author is recollecting the incident. The is an example that the concept of school shooting or violence on school property is not a 21st century concept but rather has been prevalent throughout California history. The news of the shooting spread through word of mouth and took a few days to be received.

“Terrible Shooting Affray at Knight’s Ferry- One Man Killed and Another Supposed to be Mortally Wounded”

The Daily Alta California

Volume 19, Number 7084,17 February 1867

Media Type: Newspaper Article; California Digital Newspaper Collection

QUOTE

“A terrible shooting affray occurred at Knight's Ferry yesterday morning, which resulted in the death of one man, and very severely wounding another — Mr. McGinnis and Mr. George T. Cheshire. Cheshire was a school-teacher, and turned a daughter of McGinnis out of his school. For this, McGinnis sent the teacher word that he would horsewhip him. Yesterday forenoon McGinnis attacked Cheshire, when the teacher succeeded in getting him down two or three times, the last time telling McG[innis] that if he again attacked him, he would shoot him.

McGinnis again approached Cheshire, when the latter shot four balls from a revolver into the body of McGinnis, killing him on the spot. A son of McGinnis soon after shot the teacher, the ball entering the head of Mr. Cheshire a little above the right ear, passing through the brain and striking the skull on the opposite side, so as to make it bulge out. The ball then glanced down to the lower portion of the brain, the probe failing to reach it. At last accounts Cheshire was still living, with but slight hopes of his recovery.”

 

DESCRIPTION

On February 16 of 1867, a dispute occurred between a teacher, Cheshire, and a parent of Cheshire’s student, McGinnis. The dispute was over Cheshire’s proposal to expel McGinnis’s daughter from school. McGinnis threatened to “horsewhip” Cheshire if his daughter was expelled. McGinnis assaulted Cheshire leading Cheshire to shoot and kill McGinnis. The son of McGinnis then shot Cheshire in the head where he was pronounced alive but “mortally wounded”. Disputes between educators and student’s parents are not uncommon. This event was printed in the newspaper The Daily Alta California, in 1867, with the heading, “Terrible Shooting Affray at Knight’s Ferry- One Man Killed and Another Supposed to be Mortally Wounded”. School shootings in California are not a new concept.

"Killed Teacher, Self: More Light Shed on CSUN Gunman Who Took 2 Lives"

Author: Gabe Fuentes, Times Staff Writer

Publisher: Los Angeles Times

Media Type: News Paper Article

QUOTE

“The student who killed an associate professor before committing suicide last week at California State University, Northridge, was in danger of being dropped from a master's program because of a low grade from the teacher, authorities said Monday.

Los Angeles police said an argument over the grade prompted the student, Fawwaz Abdin, 25, of Northridge, to shoot computer science teacher Djamshid (Amir) Asgari, 35, Wednesday in a stairwell in the school's Engineering Building. Abdin then shot himself once in the head, police said.”

 

DESCRIPTION

On February 4, 1987, a student in the Masters Program at California State University, Northridge, shot twice and killed his computer science professor over a potential drop from the Master’s program, due to a low grade in the computer science class. The student was described as “moody” and “introverted”, but not assertive or aggressive. The student was a native from Jordan and had moved to the United States in December of 1980 to attend Trinidad State Junior College in Trinidad, Colorado. Later he perused a Masters Degree at California State University, Northridge. Newspapers were a way for information to travel more quickly than by word of mouth but not as fast as the current (2017) social media.

“Student one of 3 dead in San Bernardino school shooting”

Author: Sonya Hamasaki, Darran Simon, CNN

Publisher: CNN

Digitized Updates: 11:18 AM ET, Tue April 11, 2017

Media Type: CNN Website, Video

QUOTE

“(CNN)A Southern California man fatally shot his estranged wife inside an elementary school classroom attended by special needs children before killing himself on Monday, San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said.Two students were injured in the murder-suicide at North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino, and one of those children later died at a hospital, Burguan said.”

 

DESCRIPTION

A domestic dispute led to a man opening fire in his wife’s classroom. The shooter’s wife was the known target, but he shot 3 children standing nearby his wife and one boy later died. After killing his wife, the shooter shot and killed himself. The shooter had faced prior criminal charges including “banishing a weapon, assault, and crimes against public peace in 2013”. The breaking news was present among the internet, twitter, news stations, broadcast radio, and more. Twitter included consistent @SBPDCheif police updates. The news of the shooting quickly swept through the US. The city of San Bernardino came together to attend a prayer vigil held the following Monday night at San Bernardino Church. Media aloud the news of the shooting to be spread from home to home instantaneously.

ORAL HISTORIES INTERVIEWS

Mrs. Becky Casey comes from a life of privilege. She identifies herself as a white, educated, middle class, female. Her perspective on the history of school shootings is unique and important. Casey has been an educator for over 32 years. The interview with Casey provides a very real people’s history because it is in the perspective of an educator with over 32 years of lived experience.

 

The interview with Becky Casey challenges dominant versions of history because her lived experience with her personal understanding of school shootings and how they have developed over time. Casey has a unique perspective of perpetrators of school shootings as well as how the media has effected the concept of school shootings.

 

This interview is a living testimony of Casey’s lived experience working in a school as an educator for over 32 years. She describes how her perspective has evolved over time as well as how her affection for her students has developed over the years. She describes her experience growing up, the experience of her own children, and her concerns for the future of her children as educators themselves. The interview is a living testimonial because Casey describes her views and perspective regarding school shootings and her experience with a shooting near by the playground of her students.

This interview was conducted by Dana Canning of the interviewee, Becky Casey. The interview took place in Orange County California on May 4 2017. The interview regards the many aspects and evolution of school shooting as experienced through the lens of an educator of 32 years.

 

Canning: “Do you think over time that social media or the news has enhanced it or?”

Casey: “Yes, I think that people get a lot of ideas because of media and because of that there’s a lot of similarities to what people want to do and it gives them ideas. I think that it has created a very warped sense of reality unfortunately because that is the focus there may have been many of these things that happened years ago but now it’s enhanced even more because they keep talking about it. The more they talk about it the more it creates a problem because there are so many people that want to, that are upset and think, ‘I’m going to do that too’, so there’s a lot of ideas that get put into their head that wouldn’t be if they didn’t keep talking about it. Used to be in the passed they worked through issues because that’s what you do. Now its like well ‘you’re upset? Oh what are you going to do about it?’ You know? So its like oh well that’s an idea. So I think media has really warped things for sure.”

 

Canning: “Do you think it’s more prevalent now than it would be 30 years ago?”

Casey: “Definitely, I think it has but that’s the entitlement generation. We’re in a generation that has no accountability. We are raising kids with no accountability for their actions. And why would that have accountability because we’re not following through when they come to court or different things so their kinda doing what they want to. And some of it is up bringing like their parents. And a lot of it gets put on society but so much of it is just parental and even in the classroom, parents are making excuses for kids. It’s like we’re constantly rescuing them. You know? And everybody is the victim which is a shame because we were all bullied when we were kids but how did you handle it? You know? We all had issues when we were kids, but how did you handle it? Our parents gave us tools. I gave my girls tools as to what you do. Not retaliation. You know? And that’s not what’s put in place. A lot of it comes from the home. ‘My poor child. My poor kid.’ Than they grow up and they take action on things because poor me. But that’s what I’ve seen over time.

 

Canning: “Do you think that the causes of school shootings has evolved in any way? What do you think about that?”

 

Casey: “I think it has escalated, but not because people have more guns. People have always had guns. And the bad people are always going to find guns. You know? You can say you’re going to have gun regulations, this and that, but bad people are always going to have guns. You know? And there’s going to be accessibility if someone wants to do harm they’re always going to do harm. If someone wants to find a gun they will. You know? It has to come from an internal thing and with that in place it’s very difficult because it has to come from the core family and out values have declined unfortunately. It hurts the kids. Because they grow up and it’s hurting people hurting people, you know? Unfortunately.

 

Canning: “Have you ever had an experience with a gun on campus or a dangerous situation where an emergency protocol took place?”

 

Casey: “We didn’t have it on campus but the apartment buildings across the street, this was probably 20 years ago. They had a gang related incident there was a family that had something going on and someone drove by while the kids were on the playground, my kids were on the playground and they started shooting over there, so they immediately, within seconds, the kids ran inside they heard the shooting and the playground person said run and everybody ran. And they were probably inside within maybe 20 seconds. I mean it was fast.

This interview touches upon the opinion of a 16-year old female who experienced a gun on campus at her high school in 2017. There was little to no media coverage of the incident at Capistrano Valley High school although the school was in a “lockdown” protocol. The interview was conducted in Orange County California on April 25 2017 between the interviewer, Dana Canning, and the interviewee, Rosie Canning.

 

Canning: Have you experienced a dangerous situation where an emergency protocol took place? If so, what was your experience like?

 

Rosie: Yeah, because all of the teachers screamed at us to get into a classroom and teacher shut off the lights and shut the lock block and we huddled under our teacher’s desk because we felt more comfortable together than separated at individual desks.”

 

Canning: While time has evolved how has your perception of school shootings evolved?

 

Rosie: I take it a lot more seriously now knowing that it can happen to any body especially ‘cause it happened in mission Viejo, and I take it very seriously now.

 

Canning: How did social media effect this situation?

 

Rosie: The kid was getting bullied on social media and that’s why he brought a gun. Social media spreads the word faster and I can just go onto snap chat and find out what’s going on. Social media was used to spread the word but kids were all on their phones and that created light and if a shooter did see the light and know there is kids there he could shoot the windows.

 

Canning: How has the concept of school shootings effected the way you attend/teach at school?

 

Rosie: I’m very considerate of others now. I try to talk to kids that I usually don’t. and I ty to talk to kids that are not as “popular” and I’m more considerate and try to be nice to everyone. Like ii say sorry if I hit someone with my back pack because that could have a large effect on them if they’re getting hit by backpacks all day and no one says their sorry.

 

Canning: Is there anything else you would like to add or share?

 

Rosie: Uhm its definitely a serious topic and its definitely a sensitive topic and because of school shootings in previous times it definitely is sensitive and has a large effect on parents and kids, but going to a school where I go to its not taken as serious and it should be instead of joking about it.

This interview provides a people’s history because it is in a young adult student’s perspective. Rosie is describing her truth and history as it has unfolded in her perspective. This interview provides a young person’s history of school shootings. Growing up in the digital/social media age, her lived history and perspective is uniquely different from other interviewees and the personal histories of other’s. Her lived history is present in the safe and secure town of Mission Viejo.

 

This interview challenges the dominant version of history because it is in a personal perspective. She describes her feelings surrounding school shootings and the feelings of her peers. She is able to describe how social media directly effects her and her peers in the context of school shootings. Her history of school shootings isn’t in numbers or statistics but rather social. She describes history of school shootings as how she has felt and how her peers have felt about it. Rosie’s interview challenges the dominant version of history because she does not address years or causes of shootings, but rather how she can effect people and others in order to prevent school shootings.

 

Rosie’s interview is a living testimonial because she describes how current news and media effects her knowledge of school shootings. She describes how the history of school shootings has effected her current knowledge and emotions. She describes the physical differences in cities and schools that she has visited and how that effects her emotionally This interview is a living testimonial because it is a declaration of the current situations Rosie is living through.

CREATIVE ARTIFACT

I chose to compare social justice teaching with leaves on a tree. No matter how different each leaf is, it is essential for the tree’s survival. It doesn’t need to be stomped on or squished, but left alone for us to experience its beauty and uniqueness. Just like humans, we are all different. There is no need for violence or comparisons, but rather appreciation for one’s beauty and uniqueness. There is no need for discrimination or hate. Each leaf comes from the same trunk, drinks the same water, and breathes the same air, just as each human is born, lives, and dies.

 

Justice-oriented social studies classes have the potential to create engaged and active citizens of society who are ready and able to create social change for the better. Influential figures in history exemplify how to bring about change. They serve as examples to students who have the potential to bring about change everyday. Historical figures who do not serve to be influential become the figures to study, be aware of, and exemplify the opposite of change but as figures and situations of history that should be known, remembered, and not repeated. Personal connections between historical figures and movements allow students to make connections of the past and present. This enables students to critically think of, design, and create a world in which they’d like to live.

 

Asking questions such as “who is present?”, “who is not?”, “why or why not?”, “whose perspective is this written by?” are essential in promoting leaning. Essential questions have the potential to provide students with the opportunity to think and explore history critically. Essential questions provide a connection between political, social, and economic issues of the past with current political, social, and economic issues today. Essential questions provide a platform for students to engage and develop educated opinions and critical thoughts and emotions connecting the past with the present. Essential questions bridge the gap between mandated content and content of social history happening today. I want my students to learn and become engaged and active citizens of society. Providing discussions of essential questions gives students the opportunity to connect history with essential issues around the country and world today. Essential questions teach students how to become active citizens by learning about historical issues as well as current issues in hopes that they will make a connection and be the change currently and in the future.

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