THE BLOG
04/20/2007 06:58 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Whole Class Started Laughing and Saying, "Go Back to China"

The mass murders of 32 students at Virginia Tech flow directly from widespread neglect of mobbing and bullying school behavior by educators and teachers at Westfield High School, in Chantilly, Virginia.

Two former Westfield High students were among the 32 victims of Cho Seung-Hui. It is still unclear whether Cho intentionally singled them out.

Chris Davids, who graduated in Cho's class of 2003, recalled that in an English class the teacher had students read aloud. When Cho's turn came, he looked down in silence. The teacher threatened to give him a failing grade. Cho then proceeded to read slowly in a strange, deep voice that sounded "like he had something in his mouth," said Davids. The whole class started laughing and pointing and saying "Go back to China."

Cho clearly had untreated, and undiagnosed, highly functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder -- difficulties with: social skills, communication, obsessive tendencies, adaptability and speech articulation amongst possibly other similarities.

This autism combined with bullying turned Cho into a cauldron of paranoid emotional hatred:

"Your Mercedes wasn't enough, you brats. Your golden necklaces weren't enough, you snobs. Your trust funds weren't enough. Your vodka and cognac wasn't enough. All your debaucheries weren't enough. Those weren't enough to fulfill your hedonistic needs. You had everything."

"You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today....But you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner ....The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off."

These are clearly the rantings of a Paranoid? - Psychopath? - Schizophrenic? But this carnage is not an isolated case.

We have seen this particular brand of American poison many times before.

Today is the eighth anniversary of the Columbine Massacre.

Cho pays tribute in his video manifesto to Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, who were outraged by fictional "preps."

Like Cho, the two disturbed killers clearly gave off signs of alienation, paranoia, and dysfunctionality for months, if not years. They were tormented by the "jocks" and others at the school until they felt they had no choice but to react as they did.

Too often, American schools foster a culture of cliques and teasing isolation that torments millions of bullied children who have no place to turn. This culture of bullying peer conformity has led to a record number of suicides, murders, and psychological scars that never heal.

Since 1960, suicides among American teenagers have more than doubled. Today, more than 2,000 teens kill themselves each year. 250,000 attempt suicide.

In a recent survey by Bolt Media of more than 4,000 teenagers, 47% answered, "Yes" to the question "Could one of your classmates be a killer?" This large number indicates that teens themselves are aware of their peers' inability to cope. But educators are not recognizing the cancer that is crippling and killing so many of our youth. The American Medical Association found that 1 in 10 boys have been kicked in the groin by age 16. Twenty-five percent of these kicks resulted in an injury and, most tellingly, a quarter of the injured boys exhibited signs of depression a year after the injury. National statistics show that 30-35% of students are either bullies or victims of a bully.

American educators operate on the premise of "benign neglect" - that students have to work out their social problems by themselves and that teachers should not interfere with this childhood "rite of passage."

But there is another way. A growing movement from abroad in Sweden and Canada has begun to challenge these premises. A book on mobbing by Dan Olweus shows that this culture of cliques, social torture, and cruelty can be changed by concerned educators.

"Bully Beware" programs have been successful in dozens of schools around the world. Unfortunately, few of these schools are in the U.S. and these anti-bullying notions are not being accepted by traditional American educators. After the Santee, California shooting in 2001, the Washington State Senate passed legislation aimed at cracking down on bullying, but not without opposition. Some of the Republicans questioned whether a law could fix the problems of bullies.

One study of pediatric leukemia patients showed that they associated their worst pain not with chemotherapy, surgery, or spinal taps but with "going back to school and being teased."

Consider what might have happened if any of the schools had been attentive to such problems. At Columbine, students, being aware of such problems, would have told a teacher that "the trenchcoat mafia" was acting strange. The teacher would have asked what the "trenchcoat mafia" meant. They would have been told that it was a reference to a dream scene in the 1995 film -- The Basketball Diaries -- in which Leonardo DiCaprio fanaticizes about wiping out his classmates. A professional would have quickly seen that such behavior represents a potentially dangerous alienation. And the ultimate shooting of 25 might have been prevented.

In Santee, Ca., when his threats were ignored, an angry 15 year old boy brought a gun to school and killed two classmates. The troubled youth gave off many signs that were clearly obvious to his schoolmates and teachers, but no one was trained to be sensitive to such problems and the possible implications of traditional teenage cruelty.

At Westfield High, there were many signs that Cho was deeply disturbed, dangerously alienated and horribly tormented. Teachers and school officials should have noticed and taken actionfor his undiagnosed autism and alienation.. A guidance counselor should have talked to Cho and his parents. Educators could/should have consulted with his teachers - who all saw the problems - and gotten help for this tormented child.

The problems of bullying are everywhere, in every school, town, and city in America. If nothing changes, the consequences and mayhem will continue to traumatize the entire nation, again and again.

Around the corner from me at an elite private school in Manhattan, a 13 year old boy has eaten lunch alone for the last three years, because it has become a game among the other students to get up and leave the table when he comes to sit. I wrote a letter to the headmaster, but never got an answer. I was told the administrators don't want to interfere, because, "It is an age-old problem."

Hopefully, he will never have access to a gun.

jfleetwood@aol.com