Sandy Hook and the ‘Abandoned Gunman’ … by Kru Dhon

After shooting his mother at home, Adam Lanza, 20, passed through the gate of the Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn., killed 20 Grade 1 students and six teachers, including the Principal, and before taking his own life.  Who is he?

According to news reports, Adam Lanza was a top-of-the-class student in middle school.  He might have Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, which affects social skills.  His school counselor recommended a psychologist.  His mother, who took care of his homeschooling, was in the process of choosing a college for him, while trying to get him serious mental care.

As a teacher, I have been focusing on understanding who Adam Lanza was.  The massacre was not the result of just his argument with Sandy Hook teachers the day before.  The process had started many years earlier. This included his physical and mental state, as well as his family situation.  Adam’s parents were divorced when he was 14, the early phase of a teenager.  He had lived with, and was homeschooled by, his mother, who was reportedly anxious about obtaining guns to protect her property in the time of economic instability.  Nothing was said about his homeschooling activities, except that he was always in his room playing computer games.  Is this good for student with special needs, especially with poor social skills?

After the massacre, President Obama came to Newtown to meet with the survivors and the families of the victims.  He vowed to “take a meaningful action” to prevent another such tragedy.  As we can see, debates for and against gun control have been following in the ensuing weeks.  Questions have also been raised about healing the survivors.  Nothing much has been said in the public forum about how the education system could help students like Adam Lanza and prevent such tragedies.

Luckily, Thailand has not experienced this kind of outrageous mass killing.  As we are entering a new phase of development with the ASEAN Community and unanticipated changes coming along with the 21st Century, are our school and education systems ready to support students?  Are schools and families aware that students with Autism, Asperger’s, learning disorders (LDs), or psychological needs (such as low-self esteem, trauma, depression, school refusal, Schizophrenia, etc.) exist, and at what percentages in the school system?  And how are they cared for?  Are these statistics even available in Thailand?

Although some forms of disorders cannot be cured, most students can be trained to live happily with other people and successfully contribute to society.  In many schools, however, these students are called “the last row students”, and teachers do not bother to do anything with them (usually after punishing them violently and making them hate school). Many students who fall into this category are expelled in order to end the trouble for the school.

My mentor, Ajarn Sasithorn Paiteekul, once told me that if we did not take care of these students and properly deal with violence in schools, expelling them will eventually victimize the society, just as in the case of Sandy Hook Elementary School (as well as Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, and others — see links