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Children as PerpetratorsRudiger Appel's Figurine and Link to his site.

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: March 4, 2000
E-Mail Curran or Takata.

Six-Year-Old Shoots and Kills Another Six-Year-Old

Part of Teaching Series
Copyright by Curran and Takata: March 2000; "Fair Use" encouraged.

Lobotomy, TooBarry's Clip Art Link

I'm late; I'm late
so much to do
important, too

he what?
he can't . . .
he couldn't . . .
six years old?

then see
I'm right, I'm right
evil born, evil do

can't be learned . . .
six years old . . .
evil born, evil do . . .
lobotomy, too


On March 7, LaKisha Miller, CSUDH, wrote:

Jeanne, I am the parent of a 9 Year Old Black Male.  My daily worries are making sure that the things that I teach him today, will help him survive tommorrow.  Constantly encouraging the do's, and explaining the consequences of the don'ts.  Making sure that he is aware of his actions (by questioning/discussions),  preparing discussion days and times for questions he has prepared for me.  I know that this should be twenty-five words or less, but the action of this six year old hurts.  I believe that there's no way to punish him, in a way that he will understand.  I believe that the parents are to blame.  It's evident that he's not aware of the do's and dont's. Just maybe if during birth a toe tag is attached with instructions on rearing your child, in a way that is not structually violent to others, a toe tag may not be needed sooner than necessary due to one's actions. We need to prepare our children not to be structually violent.  "Let's Save Our Children, As Well As Others."

On March 7, jeanne answered:

Well said, LaKisha. But as we shall see in the ecological analysis of structural violence and race, we have much yet to learn about structural violence. Many of us have not yet learned to see it. In the meantime, works like those of Leo Buscaglia give me some comfort. jeanne

On March 21, 2000, Dionne Thompkins, UWP, wrote:

I argree with Lakisha and her reply.  She said she is a mother to a 9 year old little black boy.  Well I'm a mother to a 6 year old black boy.  She says she's been hoping that what she teaches her son about consequences for things he does wrong [will help him survive]. I feel our children need to know the value of life and that there are reasons for us to be in this world.  Life is an opportunity to strive for success. That doesn't mean it will come easy.  This little 6 year old that did the shooting should know he took a little girl's opportunity to succeed away forever. The mother of this little boy should have to take some parenting skills' training.  Yes, the uncle was the owner of the home, and he was known to be a big drug dealer in that area.  The media said the mother lost her place and had to move in with the uncle.  A mother should at all times be looking out for the well being of her children.  Why would you put your child in the line of danger or in that type of enviroment?  Women's Resource Centers are located throughout the whole entire country.  My opinion is that the mother was careless about the safety of her child.  She have may been a part of the drug business, too.  I know it is diffucult being a single mother; I'm one myself.  Looking out for your child's well being and valuing his mind and enviroment is the parent's responsibility.  You can make a child's thought pattern to value people and themselves at a very young age.  Like I said, "The value of life needs to be taught continuously throughout our lives.

On March 26, 2000, jeanne answered:

Hi, Dionne. You've made an excellent point. Both you and LaKisha, as parents, are focussed on the difficulties and the importance of teaching values to our children. And both of you are painfully conscious of the shattering of that parental teaching by "the world out there." I liked your emphasis, Dionne, on respect for self, as well as others.

But I still want to stretch the corners of your minds. I would like all of you to now consider this unfortunate catastrophe from the perspective of the young mother. We've all been taking the perspective of the two six-year olds and their shattered lives. How old to you reckon the young mother of the shooter was? How do you reckon it felt to "lose her place?" And what social context could have led to her moving in with an "uncle?" Dionne, you consider that she might have been part of that drug world? Might be. Do you think she might herself have been a drug-addicted baby? What do you think her parenting was like? What alternatives do you think you might have found to moving in with such an uncle?

Many of you know the drug culture in at least some of its aspects. We all know about the increasing risk of violent crime within the drug culture, but isn't that risk high within a drug-infested neighborhood, anyway? What does one do about the higher risk? Does one just get to move out to a better neighborhood? If one just "lost one's place?"

Suggested project:

Dionne, you suggested that Women's Resource Centers are available all over the country. This issue has come up before in Juvenile Justice. Let's test that hypothesis. Guided by the debriefing form, and by my suggestions above, flesh out the person you can best imagine as the mother of the six-year-old shooter. Call some Women's Resource Centers. Find out what kind of help is and is not available.

Answer some of these questions? How are you treated by the answering agency? How easy or hard was it to find the answering agency? How much would reaching that agency (in time, effort, and actual cost) have cost if you did not have a telephone? If you had just "lost your place," do you think you would have a telephone? Would the agency have helped over the phone, or would you have had to go to the agency? How hard would it have been to get there? Would you have looked respectable, or been embarrassed by your appearance? Do you think you would have been treated "with respect?" How would that have felt? (You can't just ask these questions of the agency. Asking questions is an obtrusive way to gather data. Judge by the way you are treated on the phone. One of you go to the agency. See what it's like. Think about whether you'd rather go as the mother, or as a college student investigating the way the mother might have been treated.)

Please, all of you who are curious about these alternatives, and their bearing on the tragedy of the six-year-olds, work together for ethical reasons. If you individually call or visit agencies, you are overloading their capacity to deal with their clients. If you work together, you can share the information, and not overburden the agency. I think it's important for you to get this information; but it's also important for you to be sensitive to system needs.

On March 7, 2000, Pat Acone wrote:

Recently, Michael Moore, producer, director, etc. of documentary called Roger and Me read a letter (on KPFK) which he had written in response to  the media's attempt to place the blame of one six year old shooting and killing another six year old on a 19 yr. old "man".  The media stated that the 19 yr. old had placed the gun (that was allegedly used by the six yr. old) under his bed covers.  The 19 yr. old was arrested.

In his letter Michael Moore addresses the issue of structural controls on an individual's behavior.  Moore states that before we place the blame on any one individual we should investigate further and determine who else is to blame (if we must place blame).  The youngsters were from a "township" in Flint, MI, and Moore draws an analogy between the "townships" in South Africa prior to apartheid.  He speaks to the   plight/blight of the area and states that this particular area has one of the, if not the, highest crime rate and poverty level in the U.S.

His documentary Roger and Me portrays the circumstances that befell this area as a result of the loss of jobs when General Motors closed their factories and left the town and its occupants to suffer the consequencies of G.M's actions.  I urge you to find the movie/documentary at your local video store and watch it.  I did and it reminded me of "And the Band Played On".

On March 7, 2000, Shaunna Evans wrote:

I think that by saying that a child can be stressed is just another way of putting the blame somewhere else. I understand that a person of any age can become stressed, but to the point of shooting and killing another classmate?!? As I've understood the story the main reason why this little boy committed this crime against this little girl was because the day before she told him to leave her alone. I feel that this child knew exactly what he was doing, because after the incident he ran to the bathroom and threw the gun out the window. I agree with you, jeanne, when you say that structural violence combines with cultural and personal characteristics and leads to stress. I also feel that there are many other things that lead to stress or even structural violence. All-in-all I think that this type of violence needs to stop, and until we find the source of the problem, it will continue to occur.

  • On March 26, jeanne finally responded:
  • Shauna, you've raised some very good points. One, finding a name, "stress," on which to blame this tragedy is not a sufficient response. I'm glad that you related this process of naming to the process of blaming. I was also pleased that you recognized the combination of personal and structural violence. The structural violence which
    Pat recognizes above in her tracing of the violence in the six-year-old's neighborhood to Roger and Me, highlights the structural violence, the aggregation of poverty and despair in a particular neighborhood, the scarcity of care and training in that neighborhood, and the resultant dysfunction. Categorization and tracking tend to do that, in school rooms, in neighborhoods, in corporate enterprise. I got the impression from some U.S. Supreme Court rulings that "separate" was not "equal." I guess you can't go to segregated schools, but segregated neighborhoods are OK. Confusing, hmm???

    Shauna, I have a question about "knowing exactly what he was doing." Half the time I don't know exactly what I'm doing. Do you think he knew that he'd get punished if he was caught with the gun? Or do you think that he understood the consequences of his act in terms of a life ended? Take a look at Chandra Robinson's Children's Comments on the Shooting, particularly, Antione Marshall's comment. Antione suggests normative means of compensating for the harm done: a year in jail, a job, and compensatory damages, paying for the funeral. But note that he gives a year in jail. The child's imagination, even that of one who says "I feel mad because he shouldn't have killed that 6-year-old girl," doesn't extend to the extinguishing of a life, even by 4th grade. the child still seems to be thinking in terms of rehabilitation, what the 6-year-old must do to atone for his acts. The possibility of an act which cannot be made right does not come up.

    Recall what Ronald Coleman says: "I feel mad. That was bad. But the boy felt mad." Now, that's a postmodern statement, if I ever heard one, switching and trying to juxtapose perspectives. It is in such juxtaposition of alternative perspectives that we must seek, Shauna, the sources. By juxtaposing many local narratives and using a more sophisticated approach to ecological analysis, we might gain more understanding of violence. That means, we have to listen to the young children, too.

    On March 4, Valencia Ross, CSUDH, wrote:

    Early this morning I listened to a show on channel 2 titled Early saturday morning. They were talking about children and stress. They stated that children are starting to become more and more stressed out because of many different reasons. They said some things were school and if their parents were stressed then the child might become stressed because children model their parents. Then they said that the six year old child that killed his six year old classmate might have commited this crime because of stress. However I disagree, what do you think? If we start blaming tragedies like that on stress then we will never be able to overcome all of these tragedies, they will continue to happen.

    jeanne answered:

    Hi, Valencia. Pat Alexander has asked to hold a discussion group on the 6-year-old, too. And Pat Acone has sent in some material.

    I think the only answer I might be able to offer is our emphasis on Theory, Policy, Practice. Your response, Valencia, is reasonable. If all we do is use our theories to explain deviant and violent behavior, then we'll have to treat that behavior like magic. We'll have to punish it, or incapacitate it by locking up those who engage in it and throwing away the key. That's the way many earlier generations dealt with it: calling it an "evil seed." Evil is another word for "what we can't understand."

    I would agree with you, Valencia, that if we say that "stress" caused the 6-year-old to kill another child, and we leave "stress" at that, then we've just given another name to "evil" and we may never solve the problem. If we can't solve it, and we can't predict when it will erupt, then for the safety of the wider group, we have to incapacitate it: lock it up and throw away the key.

    So peace-making criminology suggests that we must study this phenomenon of "violence" or "evil" or "stress" with all the knowledge and creativity available to us, so that we can eliminate "magic" from our perspective, and slowly peel away our ignorance layer by layer, until we can relieve some of that stress we are all feeling, including our 6-year-olds. That's what "structural violence" is all about: seeing the broader perspective, in which we produce this "stress" without meaning to, by the rules and norms that have come to guide us out-of-awareness. Understanding what we as a society do to perpetrate structural violence may then provide some keys to understanding how that structural violence combines with culture and personal characteristics to cause that "stress" to erupt into "life threatening violence".

    We used to not prosecute very young children for violence on the grounds that they could not understand "right" and "wrong" within the same context that grownups could: that is, they might know what is "right" and what is "wrong" from being corrected as part of their social learning, but they could not understand the causal relation between "wrong" and "harm to another." Do we believe our 6-year-olds are so much more sophisticated today that they can make that causal connection? Or do we resort to "magic" and "evil seed" positions? Or do we begin to work diligently and with maximal priority on understanding violence in the complexity of the 21st century context to take it out of the realm of magic?

    Because I think this is a major issue, I've begun files on two books for you: Rose and McClain, Race, Place and Risk: Black Homicide in Urban America, and Oliver, The Violent Social World of Black Men. I'll try to get them up by this afternoon, but I'm still reading them! Sorry, I just can't go quite fast enough. jeanne