Recent School Violence Spawns Copycats

By: Whitney Holmes
By: Whitney Holmes

October 10, 2006

With the recent increase of bomb threats across the country, it begs the question--why do these types of events seem to multiply after one happens? At Piedmont Virginia Community College, classes are now back on schedule, after being closed Monday night due to a bomb threat.

This bomb threat was the third one aimed at a school in the area in just a few days.

A single violent event, such as a bomb threat, or a school shooting, often spawn similar events because of the something called the 'copycat effect.'

Psychologist, Dr. Peter Sheras, says this effect is triggered by media attention. The media give people the idea of a specific act and also the craving to have attention by, both, the media and society.

For this reason, psychologists urge the media to be non-specific about these acts, so that people do not know how to perform them.

"It's useful for the media, within the realm of appropriate coverage, to leave out a lot of the details that might be something that specific people might use in the commission of crimes in the future," says Dr. Sheras, who is from the Virginia Youth Violence Project.

Dr. Sheras also says that people actually want to follow through with the killings or suicides because they are reacting to something bad that happened to them, such as being picked on at school.

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