Salvador Ramos, the alleged perpetrator of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Texas last week, had been expelled from the school, which may have led to a feeling of “isolation and disconnection”, according to psychologists .
State police said they found no apparent motive or warning signs of the attack. They noted that Ramos had no documented history of mental illness or criminal record, according to a New York Times report.
After the shooting, Gov. Greg Abbott was able to confirm that Ramos was a high school dropout, the AP reported. According to a neighbor and family friend, Ramos was angry at his lack of academic achievement and it sparked a fight with his grandmother, before he shot her ahead of the school shooting.
The neighbor was not interviewed on camera, but reporter John Mone of local news channel Newsy revealed he spoke to a resident he named Eduardo Trinidad, who gave him these details.
“We know that the generator of difficulty is isolation, disconnection and disaffection,” said Maurice Elias, professor of psychology and director of the Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab. Newsweek.
“We know that it is the situation that brews violence, so schools must become places of support, of welcome, they must be places where the social and emotional needs of children are considered as important as their academic needs. They’re completely interconnected, from a practical point of view, when students drop out, they can’t be allowed to drop out.”
He continued: “What’s happening now is that the kids are dropping out, the schools aren’t responsible for them anymore, no one is responsible for them anymore and then you hear about them again. This aren’t kids who are necessarily going to do shootouts, but they maybe, but they’re going to engage in some kind of mischief because they’re lost.
“So we need to design our social systems in such a way that our care for children doesn’t just extend to when they are in our good graces.”
Linda Reddy, professor in the doctoral program in school psychology at the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, pointed out Newsweek that there is also a racial element to the amount of support children in America receive. She insisted that all other avenues be considered instead of deportation.
“Zero tolerance policies don’t work, there is no research evidence for zero tolerance policies in schools,” she said. “Tough procedures, kicking kids out of school, in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension don’t work to reduce school violence.
“It’s been decades of research now. What it does is hurt brown and black children because they’re punished disproportionately compared to any other school environment. It’s very relevant to violence or misbehavior at school is a serious issue, we know we are hurting children with zero tolerance policies and it is impacting their mental health and their ability to do well in school.”
Reflecting on the shooting that left 21 people dead, the two experts discussed the importance of having high-quality systems in place to meet the emotional needs of young people as they grow.
Focus on the community
Elias insisted that more emphasis needs to be placed on not allowing children who drop out or are expelled from school to fall into antisocial or self-destructive habits and behaviors.
Reddy, who is involved in a national task force with the American Psychological Association on violence against teachers and school staff, said “rejecting children from schools” does not solve the problem and Elias warned that if a young person was expelled from school and poorly cared for, this can “stir up and become a problem for society”.
Both experts stressed that going forward, there needs to be a greater focus on community, at all levels of society, to ensure that young people feel heard and valued.