It Isn’t the Bullying, Stupid, It’s the Parenting


It Isn’t the Bullying, Stupid, It’s the Parenting

Don't blame school shootings on kids being bullied

Once again, this time in Finland, a teenage boy with Nazi fantasies went to school to kill. Calling himself Sturmgeist89 (“storm spirit”), Pekka-Eric Auvinen posted a YouTube video, entitled “Jokela High School Massacre – 11/7/2007,” before killing his principal, seven students and himself.

In Cleveland, Asa Coon achieved video fame: security footage from SuccessTech Academy shows the short, pudgy boy walking with a gun in each hand, passing a terrified student, searching for victims. The 14-year-old wounded two teachers and two students on Oct. 10 before killing himself. A photo of Coon’s bloody body, snapped by a police officer with a cell phone, is circulating online. For a moment, the self-declared Satanist is a star.

The conventional wisdom casts school shooters as victims striking back at bullies. The conventional remedies, therefore, start at school. Programs try to teach children not to bully classmates by touting the virtues of other races, religions, sexual orientations, etc. This misses the point.

You have no right to assault other students, physically or verbally, for any reason. Period. Disabled kids? Fat kids? Nerds? Not OK. Bullying is not wrong because Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Walt Whitman or Helen Keller were admirable people. And it’s not wrong because the worm might turn up with a gun. It’s just wrong.

The Columbine killers and their imitators want to be famous. They’re not seeking justice against bullies, just TV coverage and the online adulation of adolescent losers.

Coon’s problems started early. His father abandoned the family; his mother was suspected of child neglect. Coon was suspended from middle school for attacking a classmate and arrested for hitting his mother. He attempted suicide while in a mental institution, where he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

SuccessTech was considered a safe school by Cleveland’s standards. It fell victim to a very troubled kid.

The day Coon shot up SuccessTech, a 14-year-old named Dillon Cossey, was arrested in Plymouth Township, Pennsylvania on charges he planned a “Columbine-style massacre” at the local high school.

Two weeks later, Cossey admitted the charges and apologized. There are now reports that Cossey chatted online about web sites and videos with the Finland school shooter Pekka-Eric Auvinen.

His lawyer, J. David Farrell, meanwhile, portrayed Cossey as a victim of “protracted and profound peer abuse,” and the boy says he told a friend, “The world would be better off without bullies.” But Cossey told police he’d only been bullied a few times in middle school.

Homeschooled for 18 months, Cossey withdrew from reality. His MySpace page reveals his admiration for the Columbine killers and his fantasies of being a mercenary.

His parents supplied him with real weapons — though no ammo — to match his fantasies: His bedroom contained a .9 mm semiautomatic rifle, homemade grenades, knives and swords. He also had a swastika flag, neo-Nazi literature and a Columbine massacre video.

His mother, Michele Cossey, has been charged with buying him the .9 mm, a Ruger .22 handgun, a single-shot .22 rifle and black powder for the grenades.

Father Frank Cossey is on house arrest because he lied about his criminal record when he tried to buy his son a .22-caliber rifle. Dad was convicted of manslaughter in a 1981 drunk driving case.

Classmates would have rejected Cossey, if he’d stayed in school. They would have told Dillon he’s crazy, which would have been useful feedback. Instead, he was nurtured, accepted and loved by the world’s dopiest parents.

Sometimes, it’s not bullies at school. It’s mental illness and incompetent parenting.