In the late 1990s, it seemed like an epidemic had hit American schools: Children were acquiring guns and bombs, and then going to school to kill teachers and classmates. Various cultural influences were targeted for blame, such as Stephen King's novel, Rage, a film, The Basketball Diaries, and the Pearl Jam video, "Jeremy." Violent videogames also entered the discussions, as did the influences of cults like Satanism. Yet a look back reveals some of the earlier incidents as well. The following is a timeline of school violence that grabbed national attention:
- January 1979 — Brenda Spencer, 17, got a rifle for Christmas and used it to shoot into an elementary school across the street from her home in San Diego, California. Eight children and a police officer were injured, and two men lost their lives protecting the kids. When the six-hour standoff finally ended, Brenda explained with a shrug, "I don't like Mondays."
- March 2, 1987 — Nathan Ferris, 12, was an honor student in Missouri, where he finally got tired of being teased. He brought a pistol to school and when a classmate made fun of him, he killed the other boy. Then he turned the gun on himself. He had warned a friend not to attend school that day, signaling his plans, but no one had listened to this overweight loner.
- November 15th, 1995 — Jamie Rouse, 17, dressed in black, went into Richland School in Giles County, Tennessee, with a .22-calibre Remington Viper. He shot two teachers in the head, one of them fatally. Then with a smile, he took aim at the football coach, but a female student walked into his path and was killed with a shot to the throat. Rouse had told five friends exactly how he had planned this killing, but no one had called for help.
- February 2, 1996 — Barry Loukaitis, 14, dressed up like a gunslinger from the Wild West and went into his algebra class in Moses Lake, Washington. Concealed in his long duster were two pistols, seventy-eight rounds of ammunition, and a high-powered rifle. His first victim was 14-year-old Manuel Vela, who later died. Another classmate fell with a bullet to his chest, and then Loukaitis shot his teacher in the back as she was writing a problem on the blackboard. A 13-year-old girl took the fourth bullet in her arm. Then the shooter took hostages, allowing the wounded to be removed, but was stymied by a teacher who rushed him and put an end to the irrational siege. In all, three people died, and Loukaitis blamed "mood swings." A classmate claimed that Loukaitis had thought it would be "fun" to go on a killing spree.
- February 2, 1996 — David Dubose, Jr., 16, killed a teacher in a school hallway in Atlanta, Georgia.
- January 27, 1997 — Tronneal Mangum, 13, shot and killed another student in front of their school.
- February 19, 1997 — Evan Ramsey, 16, went to Bethel High School in Alaska with a shotgun. This is the place where other kids called him "retarded" and "spaz." He killed a boy with whom he'd argued and then injured two other students. Then he went to the administration office and shot the principal, Ron Edwards, killing him instantly. Police came quickly and ended the rampage, which appeared to be motivated only by some amorphous rage. Two fourteen-year-old friends who had discussed Ramsey's plan with him were arrested as accomplices.
- October 1, 1997 — Luke Woodham, 16, worshipped Adolph Hitler, perhaps because it made him feel powerful in light of the bullying he received from classmates in Pearl, Mississippi. When his girlfriend broke up with him, he went into a rage. He slashed and stabbed his mother that morning, then went to school with a rifle and a pistol. Right away he killed his former girlfriend and then another girl. Yet he didn't stop there. Seven other students were wounded before he ran out of ammunition. He returned to his car for his other gun, and that's where the assistant principal disarmed him. He complained that the world had wronged him and he just couldn't take it anymore.
"I killed because people like me are mistreated every day," he said. "I did this to show society: Push us and we will push back."
Two members of his group devoted to Hitler were charged as accessories to murder, and others were arrested on the basis of a conspiracy, but those charges were later dismissed. Woodham claimed at trial that he'd been possessed by demons that were manipulated by a member of his group.
- December 1, 1997 — Michael Carneal, 14, liked to wear black and was thought by classmates in Paducah, Kentucky, to be a Satanist. That morning, he brought a gun to school and opened fire on a small prayer group. Three girls died and five other students were wounded. Another student tackled him, and it was soon revealed that Carneal had a pistol, two rifles, and two shotguns, along with 700 rounds of ammunition, all of it stolen. He'd threatened earlier to "shoot up" the school, but no one had taken him seriously.
- March 24, 1998 - Andrew Golden, 11, and his gun buddy, Mitchell Johnson, 13, dressed in camouflage fatigues and then gunned down fifteen people at the Westside Middle School playground in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Five died, all of them female and four were children. The boys had a van stocked full of ammunition and guns, which they took from their kin. Golden went into the school and set off a fire alarm, then ran to where Johnson lay in position with the rifles. As people filed out for the fire drill, the boys began shooting.
- April 24, 1998 — Andrew J. Wurst, 14, liked to threaten other people and then laugh it off. However, no one was laughing when he took a pistol into the eighth-grade graduation dance in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, and killed a popular teacher. Then he opened fire into the crowd, wounding another teacher and two classmates before he ran out. The banquet hall owner went after him, disarmed him, and held him for police, but the boy acted as if the whole thing was a big joke.
- May 21, 1998 — Kipland Kinkel, 15, had just been expelled from school in Springfield, Oregon, for carrying a gun to class. He returned with a semiautomatic rifle and went into the cafeteria, where he started shooting. He killed one student and wounded eight others, one of whom later died, and he also caused a stampede that resulted in more injuries. He was disarmed and taken to the police station, where he withdrew a hidden knife. He claimed he wanted to die. Police officers who went to his home discovered that he'd killed both of his parents and had booby-trapped the house with five homemade bombs—one of which he'd placed underneath his mother's corpse. His classmates had once dubbed him the student "most likely to start World War III."
Let's take a closer look at the influences in Kinkel's life that might have helped to anticipate his explosion of violence.