Thursday, June 18, 2015

David Cullen’s response denying bullying conection to Columbine



In 2010 I reposted a blog that was originally posted the previous year, Does child abuse and bullying lead to more violence? on Open Salon which has recently closed. This included a comment from Dave Cullen's book, which I refuted, "There's no evidence that bullying led to murder, but considerable evidence it was a problem at Columbine High." (p.158) A few weeks after that I noticed That Dave Cullen was also on Open Salon and decided to inform him that I had written about him on the same forum so that he would have the opportunity to respond if he saw fit.

I was surprised when he responded immediately thanking me with no further response; this happened so fast I couldn't help but wonder if he had time to read my post. A few days later I saw the first of three posts from him that had related material on Open Salon and they were cross-posted on his own web page which is still up. I asked again about it and it turned into a public discussion that was available on-line until a month an a half ago when Open Salon closed and removed all data after giving people a chance to save what they wanted.

I'm sure some would disagree, including Dave Cullen, but I thought it demonstrated obvious denial of a major part of the contributing causes for violence, so I saved the conversation in it's entirety and posted it below along with links to the original posts which are still on Dave Cullen's other blog.

A few months after this conversation took place there was additional research that showed that child abuse leads to bullying and escalating violence which I covered in Child abuse and bullying link in study long over due, although this didn't address Dave Cullen's remarks directly it did provide additional support for the claims that I made that bullying was part of the contributing causes for the massacre.

One of the strongest claims that Dave Cullen mentioned was that there was no evidence that bullying was connected to the massacre, yet I mentioned one source after another that included evidence of bullying being related, this is included in the Wikipedia entry: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Bullying; the same article also includes another subsection which partially contradicts this conclusion based partly on Dave Cullen's research and one of his leading sources, Robert Hare, Wikipedia: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Psychological analysis

This essentially means that there are contradictory versions within the same article.

Robert Hare was one of the leading sources cited by Dave Cullen for his claims during this conversation; at the time I wasn't familiar with him but I did a search of one of his books, "Without Conscience," and found a statement that actually supported my claims. It wasn't until later that I took a closer look, including reading the whole book and some other material from Robert Hare, and found that he also made contradictory claims that supported Dave Cullen's position. When I read this book, though I found that it had serious problems with it, some of which I went into more detail in Children Psychopaths? And Mitt Romney’s Bullying History. Robert Hare is often in as much denial as Dave Cullen and a surprising number of people the traditional media and political establishment consider "experts."

He has resorted to legal action to suppress criticism, of his work, at least for a while, and there are enormous problems with it; it is hard to imagine why he is considered an expert at all, yet a lot of people still accept his credentials.

One of the claims that Dave Cullen repeated over and over again was that the researchers I cited didn't do original research specifically into Columbine. Even if they didn't look directly into it they did establish an overwhelming case to demonstrate that bullying and child abuse leads to escalating violence on a routine basis. At the time I didn't attempt to refute this, but later found out that Barbara Coloroso was from Littleton Colorado and was in a good position to do direct research. She cited some examples which indicated that it was part of the problem.

It might make some people wonder why, if she were such a good adviser, she didn't advise the people from her own community better to avoid this disaster in the first place. I haven't had the opportunity to ask her but the coverage about Columbine indicates that a lot of the people in that area might be highly religious and this is the same area where James Dobson and related organizations have done a lot of their work. I suspect that a lot of people from that area are much more inclined to accept his teaching although it is no more competent than Robert Hare's as I explained in Dobson’s Indoctrination Machine. Regrettably I suspect that if more people were able to sort through the incompetent researchers like Robert Hare and James Dobson, who is considered more of a religious preacher than an academic researcher, then many of these disasters could have been avoided.

The silver lining of that assumption is that in the future we could do just that.

Some additional information is also available about Brooks Brown, who was mentioned in the discussion as someone I think does much better reporting than Dave Cullen, from Friend of Columbine Killers Still Seeking Answers

The following is the original discussions as they appeared in 2011:

Joran van der Sloot & Bethany Storro help illuminate Columbine killers 09/21/2015

The following are the original replies when this was first posted on Open Salon.

I hope this helps.

Dave Cullen September 21, 2010 05:16 PM

It does. Thanks.

Jeanette DeMain September 21, 2010 05:22 PM

Thanks, Jeanette. I've been mulling it since last Thursday or Friday when I saw the acid-face story and shuddered.

Dave Cullen September 21, 2010 05:27 PM

I guess that, in terms of human behavior, there isn't much new under the sun. The various pathologies just get played out in slightly different ways.

BTW, I do want to let you know that I read Columbine awhile ago, and it was really an extraordinary work. Disturbing, but extraordinary. I can only imagine how hard it was to immerse yourself in all that for so long.

Jeanette DeMain September 21, 2010 05:33 PM

The Bethany Storro saga is a hometown piece of news. I told my wife within a day or so that I bet it would go this way. The reports didn't jibe. First time in her life she wore big sunglasses and that's the day a stranger throws acid on her? Nah
We've all heard too many times about these lost souls drifting through a depressed life feeding their own depression.
Now she is being threatened with prosecution for spending some of the rescue money on dinner for her parents. That should help her get better.Sheesh.

alsoknownas September 21, 2010 05:43 PM

Thanks very much for that, Jeanette. Let's say I'm feeling much healthier now that I'm not immersed in that anymore.

Alsoknown, apparently the cops sniffed the same rat. They said it didn't add up from the start, for lots of reasons.

It still unnerves me that a girl would do that to herself, though: especially THE WAY she did it. Splashing it up at yourself would be one thing--you hurtle your arm and there's no turning back. But to systematically apply it while you felt your own face burning?

And they said it took several applications.

That takes some deep self-loathing.

Dave Cullen September 21, 2010 05:53 PM

I’m not up to date on either of these two so I won’t comment on them especially since I’m still skeptical about the way the media is presenting them. They have apparently already changed the story on Storro which isn’t too surprising since it is a news story and they are still in the process of investigating although they aren’t doing what I would consider a good job investigating this or anything else for that matter. I suspect that if they investigated into their early childhood they would find more important information and without this investigation they won’t know for certain why they did what they did.

You have rightfully been described as doing a good job debunking many of the false myths about Columbine. As far as I have read this is much better investigating reporting on this subject than the traditional Mass Media has done on any one subject. This requires more work than the Mass Media seems to be willing to put into doing their job, as I’m sure you know. However there is one exception which I think should receive more attention even from you and this is a big one. It is about how child abuse and bullying contribute to an escalation of violence that often leads to much more serious violence including Columbine. A couple good researchers that have done some work on this and provided some of their work on line are Alice Miller and Olivier Maurel. This might help understand better how violence generally starts young and escalates from there. I haven’t read Olivier Maurel yet but it is recommended by Alice Miller and one of her books includes a letter to the Pope from him indicating he knows something about the subject.

I have also written a little about this based on the work of Alice Miller, Philip Greven and several other researchers about the subject. This includes a review of your book which as I indicated is good investigative reporting but it unfortunately doesn’t address the root causes of violence at an early age. It is right here asking “Does child abuse and bullying lead to more violence?” As you can see I have no doubt that it does and this is very important when it comes to stopping it. Aside from that one issue I thought your book was very good.

zacherydtaylor September 22, 2010 01:28 PM


Enough school shooters; Time to face depression 09/28/2010

The following are the original replies when this was first posted on Open Salon.

As a parent, I can say it's incredibly difficult to determine which behaviors are normal teenage angst and which behaviors need immediate intervention. I know my parents struggled with those questions, with a son who eventually committed suicide. As my children grew up, I watched for signs, missed signs, thought I saw signs...Thankfully, all the signs stopped flashing. For now.

I read your Columbine book this week (I sheepishly admit I checked it out of the library...but I did hold it up and say to my husband, "He's an OS writer!"). It's an extraordinary book and you should be very proud.

Bellwether Vance September 28, 2010 07:58 PM

As nice as it is to see you back around the 'hood, I hope that one day, you won't have to write about these tragedies again. I think you do, too. Hugs....

cartouche September 28, 2010 08:18 PM

Thank you Dave, for sharing your insight on this most tragic event...xox

Robin Sneed September 28, 2010 08:27 PM

Dave, we don't yet know enough about this young man to conclude he was depressed. However, that said, I take your comments to be valuable and true--there is much we need to learn and to do with our kids in order to prevent numerous types of tragedies--the public and the private.

mypsyche September 29, 2010 12:05 AM

Thanks for posting this. Whenever I get asked to talk about guns, because of my book/expertise, I try to re-focus the reactive rhetoric away from "More gun laws!" to the more subtle, difficult and challenging issues of the mental health of those who own guns.

It seems almost impossible to grasp the idea that, with 30 percent of American homes containing a firearm and 25 percent of Americans clinically depressed at some point in life there is a likely crossover between these two potentially deadly categories.

Caitlin Kelly September 29, 2010 10:37 AM

mypsyche: exactly. we don't know about this kid, but we know about the totality of shooters. depression is the easiest, most obvious solution to make the greatest impact.

and we should be doing it anyway. shootings are merely a glaring symptom of a desperate problem.

Dave Cullen September 29, 2010 11:24 AM

I’m somewhat perplexed by the way many people are covering the Columbine incident even over ten years after the fact. This includes you in both your recent blog entries and in your book. As I stated before, in your blog entry about van der Sloot and Storro, you have rightfully been described as one of the best sources to debunk myths about Columbine. In many ways you have done a much better job on this subject than the rest of the Mass Media partly because you seem to have put more time into this subject. You’re comments about depression are also important and I’m sure that this is a major contributing factor. However what I find hard to understand is why you have down played the implications of bullying in your book and why you have failed to address the potential impact that possible child abuse from an earlier age which as far as I can tell hasn’t been investigated as good as it could or should have been. If this did take place then it could be a major contributing factor.

In your book you said "There's no evidence that bullying led to murder, but considerable evidence it was a problem at Columbine High." (p.158) You also cite Dr. Robert Hare who said that that abusive upbringing doesn't create psychopaths but it does make it worse. Dr. Hare also indicated that Psychopaths never develop empathy in the first place. (p.241-2) this leaves open the possibility that Dr. Hare does allow for abuse or bullying being a contributing factor; although I haven’t gone directly to his work or consulted with him as you may have. Even if Dr. Hare doesn’t believe this is a contributing factor there are many other psychologists that do and this seems to be widely accepted among the academic community nowadays; although they haven’t gotten this point across to most of the public. I haven’t checked this recently but I have read several other books about the subject clearly indicating that not only is bullying a major contributing cause to Columbine but potential child abuse probably is too. As indicated before I can’t say for certain about the child abuse since I’m not aware of adequate research being done into this incident but there is an enormous amount of research into many other incidents indicating that it is almost always there when investigators look deep enough. The interview from Oprah may have been helpful but it was from a biased source and the interviewer didn’t attempt to inquire about potential abuse from Dylan’s parents or Eric’s for that matter. She may have been in denial for all I know. Some of the researchers that have come to this conclusion, and provided a significant amount of work to back it up, include James Garbarino, Ellen deLara, Alice Miller, Olivier Maurel, Joanne Scaglione and Dorothy Otnow Lewis. None of them have investigated Columbine as well as you, in fact in one book, published about two years after Columbine, James Garbarino repeated some of the misinformation you corrected; he clearly didn’t spend much time investigating this incident but since the book was about bullying at that time he could hardly ignore it. He presumably didn’t make such mistakes when he was relying on his own work instead of the information given to him by the Mass Media.

The point is that after ten years you have had more than enough time to address these issues and if you were being peer reviewed, as I suspect you must have been, someone surely should have brought this up before now. Yet for some reason you don’t seem to be addressing these issues properly and on some of the most important aspects instead of correcting misinformation, as you did in most cases, you’re contributing to it.

Alice Miller and Olivier Maurel have both made books available free on line about this subject. Also I have included a bibliography of other sources, including James Garbarino and Ellen deLara: "And Words Can Hurt Forever,” Joanne Scaglione, Arrica Rose Scaglione: "Bully-Proofing Children" and Dorothy Otnow Lewis “Guilty by Reason of Insanity” in my “Violence can be Prevented” page listed on my links. Most of these have extensive excerpts from Google or Amazon so you can read some of them before buying or looking for them at your library. Or for more of my own comments on your book see my own blog entry asking "Does child abuse and bullying lead to more violence?"

I don’t say this to be argumentative but by failing to address these important issues I actually believe that rather than contributing to the solution you may be contributing to the denial; and since you have done such a good job debunking the false myths this makes you seem more credible, as it should to a point; however that is all the more reasons why I believe these misconceptions need to be corrected.

zacherydtaylor September 29, 2010 12:14 PM

Yep, we can take care of each other.

sweetfeet September 29, 2010 10:18 PM

zach, they explained their actions ad nauseum and didn't bother to mention bullying. there is no credible evidence that they were bullied to any significant degree (ie, more than an average kid). nor is there any evidence from them that that was a motive.

we can hypothesize all we want about things that MIGHT have happened, but if there's no evidence it happened, it would be irresponsible for me to bring that stuff in.

Dave Cullen September 29, 2010 11:14 PM

Dave, thanks for posting on this. You have done so much to further understanding of how these tradgedies occur.
So many depressed kids in the schools are treated without compassion. I've worked for years in schools and have seen teachers humiliate kids in class and mistake them for being manipulative for crying at school. They are not trained for any students but the "good" ones. Thanks, Dave.

o'stephanie September 29, 2010 11:26 PM

nice to see you, too, cartouche. how u been?

Dave Cullen September 30, 2010 11:32 AM

Well then a lot of other people including me and some academics are being “irresponsible.” The following is a quote from Joanne Scaglione a PhD. who researches this subject and wrote a book about it:

‘The violence committed in 1999 by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold at Columbine High school in Littleton, Colorado, shows how horrific the results of bullying can be. Twelve children and a teacher were killed, and eighteen other students were injured. The two teenage boys then killed themselves. Most observers believed this violence resulted from bullying endured by these two students over a long period of time. Apparently teased, ridiculed, and tormented, they could take no more and snapped. Here is an account of one incident they faced: “People surrounded them [Eric and Dylan] in the commons and squirted ketchup packets all over them laughing at them, calling them faggots. That happened while teachers watched. They couldn’t fight back. They wore the ketchup all day and went home covered with it.” Source Joanne Scaglione PhD. “Bully-proofing Children”

As stated before there are many other researchers who have also come to similar conclusions including James Garbarino and Ellen deLara who wrote "And Words Can Hurt Forever: how to protect adolescents from bullying, harassment, and emotional violence". The following is how they address a similar claim to the one you made:

‘However, at columbine High school some of the athletes took it upon themselves almost as a holy mission to ridicule Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. School principle Frank DeAngelis, who himself had spent many years as a football and baseball coach, made the following telling remark: “this harassment by athletes on Eric and Dylan that has been printed time and time again-I never received a call indicating that these people were harassing them. At no time did Eric and Dylan walk into my office and say, ‘Mr DeAngelis, I’m concerned.’ “

This is a peculiar and alarming statement for a high school principle to make. Do all high school principles expect that adolescents will walk into their offices and complain if they are being bullied at school, especially by the athletes? Do secondary school administrators really have such little understanding of adolescents? The sad answer, all too often, is yes.’ Source James Garbarino and Ellen deLara "And Words Can Hurt Forever: how to protect adolescents from bullying, harassment, and emotional violence"

As I said before I don’t say this to be argumentative but there is an enormous amount of research that you don’t seem to be acknowledging including some from some very credible psychologists and teachers who have looked carefully into this subject. They have attempted to address what many people have a hard time dealing with and often respond with denial. I hope you’ll consider reading some of this material or finding other material on your own and reconsider. People with credentials who are in denial make it easier for many others to stay in denial and provide unnecessary obstacles to solutions.

Even if people don’t believe that child abuse and bullying escalate to more extensive violence it should still be considered a problem that needs to be addressed and it shouldn’t be downplayed; in fact down playing it, if as the research indicates, is part of the problem could be just as irresponsible.

zacherydtaylor October 02, 2010 12:31 PM

"Most observers believed this violence resulted from bullying endured by these two students over a long period of time."

That statement is true if by "observers" you/she mean the general public, including noted sociologists, who assumed the original reporting was accurate.

Unfortunately, it was based on enormous hearsay, speculation, and the testimony and opinions of a few kids.

I doubt very much that people like James Garbarino actually did his own primary research on the subject. It's very understandable that he based his conclusions on what was reported. But garbage in, garbage out.

That's how myths are self-perpetuating. Then people quote them on the web (and in papers, etc.) and the cycle continues.

Of course I've looked into it. I spent years on it. I've interviewed hundreds of students there, read all the killers' writings and repeated in-depth interviews with investigators and nationally-recognized psychologists who did study the case first-hand.

Almost zero investigators on the case, or experts of any stripe who have studied it closely, and first-hand have see any significant evidence of bullying.

Dave Cullen October 02, 2010 01:30 PM

Ditto what cartouche said, Dave.

In (admittedly) skimming the comments, I've seen nothing about access to guns. Are we to concentrate on treating psychological issues (sociopathy, depression, alienation, etc) but not discuss guns because access to weapons is a foregone conclusion? I realize that adolescents determined to inflict harm can do other things (poison school lunches or release fatal chemicals into the air) but the fact that kids go to school armed requires more than the "usual" push/pull about supposed Second Amendment rights.

Nikki Stern October 02, 2010 01:36 PM

Actually James Garbarino did an enormous amount of original research into the subject although not specifically into Columbine. As I said before he made a mistake by accepting some of the misinformation about Columbine specifically about the Trench Coat Mafia myth which you and Brookes Brown both corrected. However he has done much more research into the psychology than most people and written many books to back it up. He is well regarded in the academic community and cited by many other psychologists. If you’re right then Brookes Brown must also be wrong; in my opinion he did a very good job writing his book considering his lack of academic education.

He has also done a lot of research into denial and shown the work behind that as well; which seems to be the problem with many people. If that is the case you and others will have to decide on your own whether or not you’ll read up some of this material or reconsider you’re views. Most of your investigation seems very good but on this one issue and the lack of research into possible child abuse I have to disagree.

zacherydtaylor October 02, 2010 01:48 PM

"Actually James Garbarino did an enormous amount of original research into the subject although not specifically into Columbine."

Yes, that's exactly my point. I have no doubt that James understands bullying and its consequences, but if he's basing his conclusions about Columbine on faulty data about it, then those conclusions are meaningless.

Yes, Brooks is wrong. He's one kid, who was 17 or 18 at the time, living through an unbelievably traumatic situation, and with a very bleak view of the world to begin with. I've been incredulous at the weight some people have placed on the perceptions of one kid.

I don't know why you refer to my lack of research on it. I researched it heavily, and just found no data to support it, so I said so in the book briefly and moved on. The last thing I wanted to do was to perpetuate more myths.

As for child abuse, again, there is no evidence of any. Of course we can construct all sorts of scenarios of what MIGHT have happened to the two kids, but I believe that would fall under the category of "making stuff up."

Also, when a kid is abused for years, there are always signs. Most people may brush them off at the time, and/or remain silent. But in retrospect, they are much more clear.

Well, we've had 11 years of retrospect with two of the most famous mass murderers in recent history, and not a single neighbor, friend, classmate, teacher, family doctor, etc. has come forward and mentioned anything. I find it unlikely that all this went on and everyone continues to remain silent.

But regardless, if no evidence has come to light, I can't invent possibilities and identify them as causes.

Dave Cullen October 02, 2010 02:10 PM

When I refer to your lack of research I actually mean into a specific subject which is what the psychologists I have cited have looked into. As I have stated you have clearly done better research into the other myths than the mass media. As for Brooks being wrong it seems to be about only this one subject. He also debunked most if not all of the myths that you focused on if I remember correctly. And he isn’t the only one that has made these reports although he is the one I’m most familiar with. He also cited a report from a qualified expert in his book about bullying that specifically addressed Columbine although I don’t have it in front of me now but this individual did have more academic background. One of the things he did is talk about the intimidation he put up with after the fact to keep quit about it; which is presumably why many other kids didn’t want to come forward. Nor does he seem very bleak as you put it; in fact if he was so bleak he probably wouldn’t have come out with what he felt was the truth when so many people were putting pressure on him. This is probably one of the toughest aspects of the subject to research and I suspect if you had consulted with someone like Garbarino, or another one that could tell about how hard it is to find this evidence, is Dorothy Otnow Lewis who has also looked into this about Mass murderers. They have both learned how to find corroborating evidence as well.

Garbarino was able to easily see the red flag raised by Mr DeAngelis comment which many children also surely recognize. In fact I find it hard to believe that many people don’t see a problem with it. There have been other reports about the sports culture that is at Columbine as well that fits in with the bullying scenario and many other sources that have raised this issue; in fact there are several incidents about it on the news right now including one that apparently you commented on. It is a simple principle that violence begets violence and it has a tendency to escalate.

Another thing to consider is that in the absence of this assessment I can’t imagine what the real explanation could be. If you consider the escalating violence starting with child abuse and escalating with bullying then it makes sense otherwise there is just a total mystery. Furthermore there seems to be evidence just not that many people are willing to acknowledge and as I said you and others will have to deal with that yourself.

zacherydtaylor October 02, 2010 03:12 PM


Half our kids admit to bullying—the worse part 10/27/2010

The following are the original replies when this was first posted on Open Salon.

lets see, we have a 9yr war going in roughly 3 different countries. and people wonder why there's bullying in our country. blind spot? obviously the US is the worlds biggest bully-- to say the least. bullying is obviously an understatement.

vzn October 27, 2010 08:43 PM

vzn is right, it's kind of simple we just like things to be complicated so as individuals we don't have to be responsible. When I got to OS in '09 everyone here probably thought what people I personally know thought, but they were kind. I was just a whiny loser with sour grapes complaining about bullies when I was little and as an adult.

I was bullied as a small child and now that I live in a Red State I find because all laws protect business owners it's common here.

It's very simple, the number one attribute a bully looks for in a victim is integrity. If the bully is dumber, the victim doesn't feel like it's "okay" to retaliate, a pretty girl with integrity will not retaliate against a homely girl, etc... So people who have been raised to have integrity are the number one target.

Then you have what I think of as the "guilty bystanders" those who don't want to get involved because they will lose something. For kids they will be picked on, for employees they will be the bosses target, for people who do business they don't want to lose money with bully companies they deal with.

In all the sites I've studied (my focus being bully managers) there is no known way to make the bully change as they benefit. Usually they are able to steal wages, or ideas, or keep an outstanding employee from "making them look bad." Only people with more power can stop them or being ostracized by the "group".

If you have a bully boss you simply lower your production and personal standards and they will target someone else. Never be a whistle blower, if you know there is salmonella in the eggs you just have to let it go. You can only be laid off from so many jobs before you learn.

Now other people have to take crap low wage jobs and cars are built with junk parts and all the food is tainted and the CEO bullies have robbed us all.

It's very simple, either the group stands together or falls together. I arrived realizing not enough people were homeless and not enough victims had killed themselves. I think that's probably still pretty true. As far as the kids at Columbine, or the person who goes to their old company and shoots a bunch of people; they're just killing the guilty bystanders.

It's really nice that there was tons of research available. I think instead of research we should just stop the bullies. Not sure when that point will come, I have no more whistles left to blow for the deaf. The US is the biggest bully in the world. It was fine as long as it benefited us all.

l'Heure Bleue October 27, 2010 09:46 PM

I'm a recently retired principal. (Jeffco) A few days ago I wrote a post, Bullying - A School Principal's Perspective, about the influence of the political discourse on this problem, especially during an election. It would be a great dissertation topic. I'm off to read the study you cited. Your book, Columbine, was powerful and difficult for me. It's an important book - thanks.

Trish Rainbow October 28, 2010 02:33 AM

Trish, thanks. Which school.

I can only imagine that it was tough for you being that close.

I'd love to hear a principal's take on bullying.

Dave Cullen October 28, 2010 09:01 AM

There are plenty of researchers that are investigating this subject; unfortunately, as far as I can tell, the ones that are doing the best job are receiving little if any attention from the Mass Media and what is being presented to the public. As indicated before one of the leading causes of bullying is child abuse which escalates in school and leads to bullying which if goes unchecked will get worse as it goes along. This is often mild in elementary school but can escalate to something worse in high school.

However as far as I can tell most if not all of the researchers that have addressed the issue since Columbine seem to disagree with your conclusion that there is no evidence that it was a contributing factor to the disaster at Columbine. In addition to James Garbarino, Ellen deLara and Joanne Scaglione whom I cited in our previous conversation Barbara Coloroso also cited some testimony which she considered evidence to imply that bullying may have been a contributing factor she wrote:

‘After the video tapes shot by Dylan and Eric were made public well over a year after the shootings, there was still a sense of entitlement and superiority expressed by at least one member of the Columbine football team. In his mind, he had a right to taunt and torment anyone who was “different,” anyone for whom he had contempt: “Columbine is a good, clean place except for those rejects. Most kids don’t want them here. They were into witchcraft. They were into voodoo. Sure we teased them. But what do you expect with kids who come to school with weird hairdos and horns on their hats? It’s not just jocks; the whole schools disgusted with them. They’re a bunch of homos…If you want to get rid of someone, usually you tease ‘em. So the whole school would call them homos….” ‘ Source and additional information: “The Bullied, the Bully and the Bystander” by Barbara Coloroso.

Also there is apparently at least one quote from the tapes they left behind to indicate they were angry about the way they were treated. Klebold said “Being shy didn't help. I'm going to kill you all. You've been giving us shit for years.” This clearly indicates they’re angry at someone that has been “giving us shit for years.”

Additional researchers that I know of in addition to ones I already mentioned include Philip Greven, Murray Straus, Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson; however it may be necessary to consider the point of view of those that disagree with you because although they don’t all directly address Columbine as well as you when it comes to the escalation of violence these experts that I’m aware of seem to agree that violence tends to escalate and bullying is a major part of it. Most of the most effective solution are those that involve educating people at the early stages before violence has a chance to escalate.

Also I’m almost inclined to agree with vzn with one slight variation; the 9 year war does set a bad example but the bigger thing is that they’re both caused by earlier violence which escalated rather than bullying being directly caused by the war. In other words both extreme examples of violence have a common cause not that one caused the other; this common cause is violence earlier in life.

zacherydtaylor October 28, 2010 01:13 PM

for those just tuning in, one flaw in zach's logic: he's citing researchers who DID NOT research columbine, but relied on conclusions about the data they read in the media.

that's correct, right, zach? i'm frankly puzzled that you think conclusions based on faulty info mean anything, no matter how brilliant the person struggling with the bad data.

in fact, nearly every psychological expert who studied the case does not see evidence of bullying. these include Dr. Frank Ochberg, Dr. Robert Hare, Dr. Dwayne Fuselier.

Dave Cullen October 28, 2010 02:39 PM

Dave, I know this is just research and average little people (a phrase from my last boss) like me are of no real interest in such matters but here's a post you may find informative.

He is an award winning teacher who has post traumatic stress syndrome which is common in children (and adults) who are bullied, abused or in any way threatened. It's similar to what rape victims and victims of pedophilia or child abuse suffer. It's not exactly the same as the type service members get in the war but the manifestations are similar. I chose to drop out of school at 15 and run away from home.

A brilliant mind is a terrible thing to waste and blah blah blah, I don't trouble myself with such weighty issues. I'm content that none of my suicide attempts were successful and I managed to escape. In retrospect there may have been some loss to society as was pointed out by my therapist but like society I don't really mind waste. There is plenty of everything and that includes people.

One of the areas I'm trained in is medical coding so of course I had to study anatomy and took particular interest in the areas of neurology and psychiatry because I prefer more challenging areas. Unfortunately this is not a good trait for the average little person like me so I have found more suitable interests.

Here is the link to the story, it does seem a bit of a shame that this is happening to teachers and students but I like to remember that stuff happens and we just have to be positive and hope things get better. I'm certain if we all just keep researching and studying it will finally fix itself. I'm also sure the elections and positive thinking will fix everything and the kids and adults will finally be alright.

http://open.salon.com/blog/daniel_geery/2010/10/29/why_teachers_are_wasting_money_on_nea_dues

l'Heure Bleue

October 29, 2010 05:31 PM Hi Dave,
I can see you have to fend off many divergent viewpoints. I've worked with Barbara Coloroso and, while I think she has lots to offer schools, I always felt she was very quick to reach the conclusions that she did about Columbine. We all want answers and we want them quick because we simple can't bear it again. And Zach - research into bullying is important and very much needed but maybe it also lets everybody off the hook just a little. I wrote a recent post about this and hope you take a look. I was a principal at a school not far from Columbine. While we wait for the research, we can do something about bullying. Every one of us.
Dave, I sent you an email and now I want to let you know how much I appreciated Mr. D.
Don't forget to vote everyone.

Trish Rainbow October 30, 2010 01:48 AM

You’re correct I have cited researchers who didn’t investigate first hand into Columbine but they did cite the information they used to come to their conclusions and I repeated it here or in the previous blog entry on the subject. Also I did an internet search to find some of this information and it turns out that it is backed up by additional sources; the information they relied on does not appear to be faulty. Barbara Colorosa omitted the name of the student who made that quote but it is in another report housed by the state of Colorado. (PDF) Apparently you’re not the only one who looked at that statement and concluded it doesn’t constitute evidence; however some investigators into the subject including Barbara Colorosa and others I cited clearly do.

One of the sources you cited, Robert Hare, has also relied on information from media sources to come to his conclusions and he has also indicated that he believes child abuse is a potential contributing factor to psychopathy; however his specialty doesn’t seem to be dealing with teens or child psychology as is the sources I cited. He said “For many of these individuals, negative social factors- poverty, family violence, child abuse, to name but a few- were contributors to, or even the cause of, their criminality. Indeed, had these factors not been present, many of these criminals would not have turned to crime.” P. 84 It is reasonable to consider the possibility that bullying is one of the other factors that could be a contributor and those that do focus more on child Psychology like James Garbarino and Barbara Coloroso and many others have clearly indicated that this is the case.

A report by Regina Huerter clearly goes into greater detail and cites a much more serious problem with bullying at Columbine. The following is part of the description provided in Brook’s book which goes on for just over three pages:

Brook’s experiences were not unique. A year after the Columbine tragedy, research into the school’s atmosphere was conducted by Regina Huerter director of Juvenile diversion for the Denver District Attorney’s Office. Huerter’s findings paint a disturbing picture of cruelty and indifference in columbines halls….

As for students like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Huerter wrote that everyone she interviewed described the pair as "loners" and "often the brunt of ridicule and bullying. Although no one had specifics about when and the degree of bullying they received, most often it was about shoving, pushing and name-calling."

Even those associated with Eric and Dylan were punished. A female student told Huerter that she was talking to Dylan Klebold in the school hallway during her freshman year. "After their conversation was over, one of the notorious bullies slammed her against the lockers and called her a 'fag lover,'" Huerter wrote. "Many students were in the area, but no adults. She did not report this to the administration. When I asked her why, she said everyone told her 'it wouldn't do any good because they wouldn't do anything about it.'" source and additional information Brooks Brown “No easy answers: the truth behind death at Columbine” 2002 p. 52-3 I know you didn’t believe Brooks but this is based on the report of Regina Huerter who is an investigator for the state of Colorado.

The issue here seems to be whether or not these reports of bullying constitutes evidence of a contributing cause and the researchers that specialize in this subject clearly think it is. You obviously disagree however in all fairness you admitted you “not an expert on bullying. I have not studied anti-bullying campaigns, to ascertain which ones really work.” These people did.

I don’t mean to be argumentative and I do agree that bullying should be addressed whether or not it was an issue at Columbine; but denying it is an issue at what may be the biggest high school incident in recent history isn’t helping. This is part of a pattern of school shootings and the effect of bullying has been present in many of these incidents. There are already too many people denying the cause and effect of this and it is slowing down a lot of progress towards the solution.

BTW Trish I glanced at your post quickly and intend to get back to it soon.

zacherydtaylor October 30, 2010 12:29 PM

Thanks, Trish.

Dave Cullen October 30, 2010 12:53 PM

I would say that bullying is unfortunately a part of school life. I don't think it's unfair to say that in almost all schools some form of abuse, teasing or physical intimidation goes on. It is however a myth that in all schools bullying is the same. Bullying becomes a serious problem in a school when it is widespread and never confronted or dealt with by authorities. I grew up in a rough school in a poor area of East London where bullying and beatings went on, those actions though were never condoned or excused by the school itself. Certain American schools (Columbine being one of them) are different in two ways: Firstly the social structure is so rigid, and secondly the school administration did little to stop the problem. Columbine also seemed to have a core of notorious bullies who were never punished, and in turn caused great fear and resentment. Research into columbine proved that bullying was a severe problem (peaking between 1997-1998, after which the notorious bullies graduated). I don't think it was your average school. Eric Harris may have been a psychopath (though it can't be proven). However it's not disputed that he was branded a 'faggot' at columbine, teased because of his chest deformity, shoved into lockers and thrown food at in the cafeteria. All of this during his short time there. Is this sufficient to be any sort of casual factor? Or is it just a coincidence? This issue has always fascinated me because it seems hard to find out the whole truth.

Bill Patrice Jones November 06, 2010 12:15 PM


These are the three original URLs for the copy that was previously on Open Salon; however unless someone has access to Google Archives or a similar web recording source, they will now redirect to Salon:

Joran van der Sloot & Bethany Storro illuminate Columbine 09/21/2010 http://open.salon.com/blog/dave_cullen/2010/09/21/joran_van_der_sloot_bethany_storro_illuminate_columbine

Enough school shooters; Time to face depression 09/28/2010 http://open.salon.com/blog/dave_cullen/2010/09/28/enough_school_shooters_time_to_face_depression

Half our kids admit to bullying—the worse part 10/27/2015 http://open.salon.com/blog/dave_cullen/2010/10/27/half_our_kids_admit_to_bullyingthe_worse_part#comment_2050374




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