As a former teacher and social worker in New York City, the one thing I see missing from the current discussion is a report on the shooter’s school experience. He reminds me of an angry student I had many years ago who told me “If I can’t be famous, I want to be dead.” But that boy was in a program for potential dropouts with small classes and weekly counseling sessions - not a large academic high school where most students appear to be quite successful.
The Florida shooter was reportedly on the JROTC marksmanship team and that is all I have read about his classes. Who ran that team? To what extent did that teacher or coach notice aberrant behavior or was that JROTC teacher just a shill for the NRA/military mentality?( Evidently JROTC “teachers” in Florida do not require college education or certification) How about his other teachers? Did any of the many referrals to the police come from teachers or school personnel? To what extent was the school informed about those many referrals? How did he function in English, Math, Science? Did his behavior result in any referrals from teachers regarding thoughts he may have expressed prior to his expulsion? After the expulsion, did anyone in the school follow up? Were students at the school encouraged to refer peers who voiced suicidal or other aggressive thoughts? When he was orphaned a few months ago, was there any awareness of this dangerous situation in any kind of social services agency?
It is now appropriate to see him as a monster who should never be released from prison but that does not mean that his actions two weeks ago were an inevitable outcome of his life. There may well have been a point where he could have been diverted - incredibly he supposedly said after he was captured he was sorry!
The kind of behavior he exhibited prior to the shooting, including the threats, is familiar to me and did not always lead my students to jail or an early death. Often enough they could be diverted from the most destructive paths. The difference , of course, between the troubled kids I knew and the Florida shooter is access to an assault rifle, and the example of others who used assault rifles to become “famous.” This reality means that schools must be even more attentive to students in obvious distress before they become a danger to others.