Most of us heard last week, and were quite shocked by the video of two boys in Castlegar making a video entitled “How to Kill Your Teacher”. It caught national headlines for at least two full days, as people across Canada were understandably horrified at the scenes of the 10 and 13-year-old boys displaying detailed methods in which to kill. Though they later told police it was all intended as a joke, and charges were not going to be laid, there is an unease that lingers after such an event for many of us. So what are we to make of all this, and what can we as parents and those in positions of trust with children do that might reduce the likelihood of this occurring again, or far worse, with actual physical harm occurring?
The first and most predictable response so far appears to have been that we live in a society that is continually getting more dangerous, more threatening, and we must take any and all measures to protect ourselves and our children from this situation. In the news media and talk radio I heard, there were certainly opinions expressed that supported a hard crackdown on these boys by police, including facing formal criminal charges. There were also points being made that in the digital world we inhabit, it is far too easy for young people to create such videos, along with sending threatening messages through text or messaging apps on phones, making harassment far easier than it once was. Perhaps the most significant clue I took from all this was from a child and family psychologist who shared her shock at the degree of apparent anger one of the boys showed, even through acting out scenarios with his friend.
This may have been an important clue because it could be indicative of the core of the reasons for making such a threatening video. One, even when social media are easily accessible and opportunity available, would almost never seriously consider making it simply out of boredom or having a bad day at school. A young person is like anyone else in that ALL behavior is purposeful, and does not emerge from a vacuum (i.e. a place without purpose or rationale), therefore I would suggest that while the actions themselves may or may not have been intended to be taken seriously by others, there is very likely some genuine anger and frustration that created a “need” to make the video.
So if true, what might this anger or frustration been stemming from? Though I would never try and speculate the specific scenario that could have brought this about, it certainly seems likely that relationship and connection – with a teacher, family member, or friends – played a role in this event. It may not have even just been the obvious answer, a teacher who the boys apparently really did not like. It is not difficult to imagine a world of perceived rejection and broken relationship that could have played a role in this and other similar situations: a teacher or two who for whatever reason chose not to hear their words and/or connect with them in a healthy way, combined with parents who were either absent, hostile or both, and friends with similar stories, anger, and frustrations to go with them.
It will be very interesting to hear, assuming we do at some point, just what got these boys to the point where they not only created a horrifying video, but also expressed what I would suggest was genuine anger that came from somewhere for them. Unresolved anger tends to only be contained in a healthy way for so long before it must be expressed, sometimes violently, and often in ways that make others feel very uncomfortable. In the investigations done by police, school board authorities, and others, my hope is that someone chooses to ask the boys what they were so upset about, and be prepared to be fully present and accepting of their answer. It is only when anger has a chance to be expressed through safe, respectful conversation that safe resolutions can be found, and people can feel better and safer as a result, rather than more frightened, angry, and vengeful, which will accomplish nothing positive.