Two children have been shot dead in schools by their peers within one month. Brutal school violence of this kind is new in India; it scares me. Until I went to the US, I did not imagine that schools could be such ghastly places. I had my first shock came when I learned of metal detectors at a school entrance. A police officer was stationed in front throughout the school day. I could not believe it at first. Children routinely get into scuffles in India – I too have been in some. But my school or any other I knew in India never needed continuous police presence. The sight of a police official by a school was awful.
After that I met many teachers who (for good reasons) were afraid of children that they would hesitate to intervene in a fight. In the worst case I heard of a school in Chicago by which a helicopter was permanently stationed! That illustrates how grave situations can get. While in India I had never imagined that schools could be such dangerous places. But school shootings in two separate schools divided by hundreds of miles makes me think if the days of safe schools may come to an end.
Two murders is too little for such dire prognosis; but I do not draw my fears on ‘empirical basis’. I keep thinking, where did these kids get such an idea? I believe that there is a cultural basis to how we do dire things like murders or suicides; there is a pattern to how we perceive our problems and settle our scores. The school shootings in India follow a media blitz on Virginia that these kids would have seen. When two boys shot their school mate in Noida, it was followed by sustained media attention, and within one month another boy decided to settle his scores with a gun in Madhya Pradesh.
I believe that children learn from media exposure to school violence and in a paradoxical way media can make guns an acceptable way of settling scores. So far school violence is just a petty issue in India, and we should ensure that it stays so. Media should be mindful of what they expose children to and have careful policies to ensure that exposure to school violence is reduced and it’s not portrayed as an exciting thing happening.