It used to be that parents would lie awake at night worrying that their kids were going to flunk out of school, or die in a car crash, or get pregnant while a teenager, or get abducted by a stranger in the park. Today, parents need to lose sleep worrying that their kids are going to kill them.
In our latest rash of disturbing youth violence, we have the 11-year old boy who killed his grandmother and then himself because he had been told to clean his room and the 10-year old girl in Chippewa Falls that stomped on the head of a six-month old boy–because he wouldn’t stop crying.
It should be noted that the 11-year old killed his grandmother execution-style–with a shot to the back of the head before shooting himself. Where does an 11-year old get the idea that because he was told to do something that he didn’t want to do–clean his room–that he is going to get his grandfather’s pistol, sneak up behind an old woman, kill her gangster-style, and then turn the gun on himself before his grandfather can disarm him?
In the Chippewa Falls case, the 10-year old girl admits to dropping the six-month old boy on his head at a daycare center last month and then jumping on his head until he stopped crying. How does that become the normal reaction for a ten year old–to stomp on a baby’s head instead of going to get adult help?
I would also include the Barron County case of the murdered parents and the missing 13-year old girl. While the girl may not have been the trigger person, my 20-years of reporting on stories like this lead me to believe that she had contact with the person responsible before the shootings. You may recall a 17-year old girl in Rhinelander in 2015 that killed her mother and step-father–in front of her siblings–so that she could run off with a 22-year old guy from Indiana that she “met” on the internet. And let’s not forget the 12-year old girls involved in the brutal Slenderman stabbings in Waukesha County.
Why have we fortified our schools to the point of absurdity in recent years? Not so much due to external threats–but rather to protect students from each other. The Sandy Hook Elementary shooting is really an outlier–an outside adult killing kids–and even then, the shooter’s mother worked at the school.
The Twilight Zone featured an episode in 1956 called “It’s a Good Life”. Rod Serling introduced the show by saying “there is a monster living this small town”–as the camera pans across a peaceful farm setting making you wonder what could possibly be the monster–until settling on a small boy (played wonderfully by Billy Mummy). The boy has telekinetic powers that he uses to punish anyone or anything that makes him mad–killing people and animals indiscriminately and on a whim. The boy’s parents and the remaining people in the town live in fear of the child and do everything they can to please him at all times. I’m sure that in 1956 the plot seemed implausible, as children were kept in their place by their parents and adults in authority. But now it appears we had better make sure the kids are always kept happy.