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ICYMI: The "Columbine Effect," & The Covenant School Manifesto Debate


24 Years Ago The Columbine Massacre Ended... Or Did It? The Covenant School Shooting In Nashville, Tennessee & The Manifesto Debate Left In its Wake, Threaten To Expand The, "Columbine Effect,"

 

"We are now lying in bed with our oldest daughter every night to console her, and our own, deep sadness of how we are to ever navigate life ahead of us without our Evelyn on this earth, by our sides. As one of the families of going through such deep grieving of losing their loved one after simply dropping her off at school, we hope a more respectful, clear view can truly start to occur to help make a change that does not include releasing volumes of leverage for others planning similar devastation in this nation."

(Katy and Michael Dieckhaus - Covenant School)

 
TWO future shooters were just infants and a third wasn’t even born yet when Columbine happened in 1999. But by the time they each attacked their schools in 2019 all three young men were said to have drawn inspiration from the pair who committed the mass murder at their Colorado high school on April 20, 1999. They had seen the Manifesto left behind. They had seen the publicity.

“I’m thinking about doing my school the same way,” one of the youth had noted online prior to opening fire at his former high school in Ocala, Florida, 19 years later; to the day of the Columbine Massacre. “Everybody will know my name,” he added.


  • Parkland, Florida shooter also reportedly researched Columbine; even ecording video stating: “When you see me on the news, you’ll all know who I am.”


  • A high school junior who went on a shooting rampage in Santa Fe, Texas, wore a trench coat and insignia that echoed the Columbine perpetrators’ attire.


  • On April 17 – just three days ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shooting – authorities closed schools across Colorado due to a credible threat of a woman armed with a shotgun and who was “infatuated with Columbine.” The 18-year-old Florida woman was reportedly found dead in Colorado later in the day from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

 

The haunting list goes on. And, sadly, over the years; there have been others: young men (and a few young women) who have plotted or carried out violent attacks motivated by the “Columbine Effect," and inspired by the writings the perpetrators left behind.


In light of the recent events and debate surrounding the release of the Covenant School manifesto, the Uvalde Foundation For Kids presents this brief.

Over the years, data drawn from news coverage, public records, and interviews with mental health and law enforcement experts from across the nation have revealed some stark behavioral patterns behind school shooters—all of them linked to the perpetrators’ desire for media attention and notoriety & their at times infatuation of and inspirations drawn from writings or "Manifestos," left behind.

This is why, in part, aside from the reignited trauma surviving victims families of these tragedies must endure due to publicity and the public release of manifestos; The Uvalde Foundation For Kids asserts that shooters manifestos must remain private from public view or release; such as in Nashville, Tennessee following the more recent Covenant School shooting.

Individuals, motivated by manifesto writings, followed by horrific acts against our students; have historically planned to strike for example, on the anniversary of the Columbine attack, like the shooter in Ocala in April 2019. (There have been at least 18 Columbine anniversary-related plots and attacks recorded alone in the US SINCE 1999)


Others over the years have sought to outdo the Columbine body count. And, many explicitly identified with the Columbine shooters, hailing them as “heroes,” “martyrs,” or “gods.” Some we learned even took pilgrimage-style trips to suburban Denver, from as far away as North Carolina and Washington state, to visit Columbine High School before returning home to carry out shootings.

 

Today in 2023, the Columbine effect, motivated by notoriety and manifesto release; is even more grimly apparent than it was several years ago. More than 100 plots and attacks have been influenced by the 1999 shooting alone to date. And those are just the cases for which there is some kind of public record.


Shooter-focused media coverage or manifestos alone do not cause a person to commit violence. Nor do various salacious internet sites devoted to Columbine or other high-profile cases. Most mass shooters are motivated by a complex set of factors including entrenched grievances and behavioral health problems.

HOWEVER, the impact from persistent sensational coverage of the Columbine shooters along with the manifesto release & others over the years—produced with what purpose?—keeps showing up in case after case over the years. They often get renewed publicity after the latest school shooting. Such content often feeds an enduring false narrative about the shooter, such as in Columbine, where the pair were labeled, "social outcasts," who took a stand against bullying. (In reality, sociopathy, suicidal depression, and other factors drove their behavior.)

The worsening copycat problem has tracked with a rise in threat cases more broadly. It used to be referred to as, ‘going postal.’ Now it’s ‘doing a Columbine.’”


In the Colorado region of JeffCo., for example, has seen a sharp rise in threat cases in each of the past several years. As of mid-April, 2019, 46 of the year’s cases were serious enough to be elevated from the individual school level to JeffCo’s district-wide threat assessment team, which taps additional expertise to handle the most worrisome cases; noted that the surge in threats has included outsiders increasingly showing up at Columbine.


And the other disturbing behavioral patterns continue in that region alone in recent years. In March 2019, for example, a Texas man armed with a knife told an officer who intercepted him in the Columbine parking lot that “the soul” of one of the shooters “lives in my heart.”

The Columbine effect & the release of writings or manifestos has not just been exacerbated by news outlets; public officials around the country routinely describe threats to schools as “Columbine-style plots,” sometimes even when there is no specific indication of a copycat factor.

The problem has also spread internationally in recent years: There have been at least a dozen Columbine-influenced cases, for example to present year; ranging from Canada to countries in Europe and Latin America, including a suicidal mass shooting carried out in Spring of 2019 at a school in Brazil by two former students. Even Russia has been effected by the phenomenon.

Is there a plus side to publicity and the release of shooters manifesto? One strategic legacy of Columbine is that law enforcement no longer waits to move in and confront active shooters. Experts have learned a lot since 1999 about behaviors and motivations that can lead to gun rampages, including the allure of the media spotlight.
Hence, The Uvalde Foundation For Kids asserts manifesto releases, such as being considered in the Covenant School case; may in fact be warranted for select law enforcement and other groups seeking to wean, if any aide from them to prevent future attacks on our nation's students..

It’s time to bury the Columbine shooters, the Parkland shooter, the Covenant School shooter and all others who attack or threaten to attack our students. Its tine to bury their manifestos from the public and end the "Columbine legacy, for good."


To the extent that the focus remains on individuals such as who carried out the Columbine or Covenant School, Sandy Hook or countless other school shootings; those offenders would be nothing but thrilled to see the decades marking and reliving the event. At Columbine for example, they had this grandiose fantasy that they would be remembered. What is truly daunting to consider about the whole thing is that, in a way, they got what they wanted.”

Will we gift the Nashville shooter the same notoriety?

The Uvalde Foundation For Kids


(Research & References Above Compiled & Collectively Presented In The Above Form, From Various Resources Including But Not Limited To: Uvalde Foundation For Kids Research Team - US News & World Report (08/2019) - Earth News (09/2019) - BBC (2017) - New York Times (2022))



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