Teaching Frankenstein in the Post-Columbine Classroom

While we now know that much of the early reporting after the mass shooting at Columbine High School was incorrect, including the portrayal of the shooters as social outcasts and victims of chronic bullying, the effects of explaining that violence as retaliatory against a culture of elitism and cruelty remain. Students reading Frankenstein today—steeped in narratives of mass shootings—are influenced by parallels between how we characterize the motivations of mass shooters and Shelley’s creature. But Shelley’s text offers students more than these parallels. While the Creature explains his acts of violence as reactionary and justified, the novel thinks carefully and critically about his justification and about the rights and responsibilities of men. In this paper I outline a method for teaching the novel, paired with readings that narrate mass shootings as a reaction to societal rejection, that invites students to analyze the way the novel is thinking about acceptance, rejection, violence, and the rights of men. Reading, thinking, and writing about the texts together allows students to more richly examine the beautiful complexity of Shelley’s Frankenstein as well as their own preconceived notions of retaliatory violence.

Teaching Frankenstein in the Post-Columbine Classroom

1.        I first taught Frankenstein in an Introduction to Literature class at a large state university. The student population was socioeconomically and racially diverse, and included a large number of first-generation college students. I was a graduate student at the time, and I was deeply concerned that my lack of teaching experience would negatively impact my students. I wanted more than anything for them to love the literature I loved and to find in it a way of thinking more carefully and critically about all the many things literature is particularly good at helping us think about like identity, responsibility, education, social structures, and gender roles.

2.        With Frankenstein I was half successful. My students loved the novel. They came to class ready to talk about the characters, the plot, the setting and—most especially—what they thought it all meant. They were fascinated by questions of identity formation in the form of nature vs. nurture, the guilt that Victor bears for the Creature’s actions, and Victor’s oscillation between claiming and abdicating responsibility. The conversation was interesting but my students returned again and again to one question: who’s to blame for the Creature’s pain and—without any differentiation between impetus and choice—his actions? I struggled, though they did not, with some of the conclusions they drew. Many of my students read Frankenstein as a didactic text. The central lesson: beware of how you treat others or they might just kill you.

3.        Initially I was disturbed by what seemed to me an absence of nuance in their readings of the text. I tried to push them to think more rigorously but found most often that I was simply engaging them in debate, with them on one side and me on the other. Didn’t they see that the text struggled with issues of identity formation without providing definitive answers? Didn’t they see the difference between condemning Victor’s actions and excusing the Creature’s choices because of Victor’s bad behavior? They definitely didn’t. They didn’t necessarily hold the Creature up as a hero, but they placed the blame for his actions, even his framing of Justine, on others. They didn’t see any problem with the Creature’s belief that he has a right to be loved and that anyone denying him their love was committing violence against him. My students read a clear and logical cause and effect in the novel: Victor—and the world he lived in—denied the Creature love and the Creature reacted with retaliatory violence. I attributed the dissonance between my expectation and their interpretation to my own inexperience. I thought perhaps if I’d included historical material to ground their reading the experience would have been richer. In many ways I looked at the class as a failure because, although they had loved the text, I felt that their didactic reading was at odds with the complexity of Shelley’s novel.

4.         The next time I taught Frankenstein was at a small, private university. The student population was not socioeconomically or racially diverse and the majority of the students were not first generation. Many of the students came from elite private-school backgrounds. They couldn’t be more different from the students I taught in my previous attempt. I, no longer a graduate student, armed myself with a context version of Frankenstein that I thought would better prepare my students for the complexities of the text. You can imagine my surprise when the outcome was much the same. While my students enjoyed the novel, they saw it as a warning: be nice or else. They attributed a disturbing logic to Shelley’s work. They argued that the Creature, bereft of love and persecuted by mankind, does exactly what any reasonable person would expect and should have anticipated: he lashes out. The Creature’s behavior, to them, made complete sense and was even predictable. While they acknowledged that what he did was wrong, it was in no way shocking and, for many of them, was even somewhat justifiable. For my students the novel explained violence on the part of the Creature through the actions of those around him, expunged him from personal responsibility, and accepted retaliatory violence as inevitable.

5.        After my second experience teaching Frankenstein I tried several different approaches. I tried providing more history and context, including drawing more heavily from Shelley’s own life and the philosophical conversations in which the novel takes part. I found that the additional context helped my students expand the complexity of their readings but, no matter who and where they were, many of them still argued that the novel posed retaliatory violence as the natural and inevitable consequence of being unloved.

6.        The ubiquity of this didactic reading—let this be a lesson to you: be nice or else—worried me. I began to consider that, at least for my students, Shelley’s work had become didactic, and I wanted to know why. While Shelley’s text certainly hadn’t changed, my students were coming at it from a different cultural moment. As I sifted through student responses to the readings, I noticed a recurring word across many different student responses: bullying. Students characterized the fear, revulsion, and rejection the Creature encountered as bullying—a word far more loaded for them than it was for me. My own acquaintance with the anti-bullying movement was passing at best, having attended elementary and high school at a time when it was most often used in the context of after-school specials. My students, however, had spent their elementary and high school years being taught and trained about bullies and bullying.

7.        The anti-bullying movement began in response to the Columbine High School shootings in April of 1999 (Stuart-Cassel, Bell, and Springer 1). By the end of that year Georgia would pass the first anti-bullying legislation and, over the next ten years, most states would follow. Between 1999 and 2010 state legislatures passed over 120 bills addressing bullying (Stuart-Cassel, Bell, and Springer x). In many cases, the legislation mandated that school districts require all students to participate in educational programs intended to decrease bullying. Anti-bullying became the watchword of education across the nation, all in response to Columbine. But Columbine wasn’t the first school shooting—it wasn’t even the first school shooting of the 90s. There was one in 1991 (Iowa), one in 1994 (Washington), two in 1996 (Washington and California), four in 1997 (Alaska, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Arkansas), and five in 1998 (Virginia, Oregon, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Arkansas) ("Timeline of School Shootings"). However, all of these school shootings had low body counts and were over before the media arrived on the scene (Cullen 14). In contrast, Columbine lasted for over five hours, including what the police then believed was a standoff with the shooters [1] and culminating in an extensive search of the school. [2] It was more than enough time for the media to congregate and for the story to quickly go viral. People watched the Columbine tragedy unfold in real time and, as is frequently the case when information is conveyed before it can be verified, much of what was reported was untrue. It was these misconceptions that created and fed the anti-bullying movement that has shaped so many students.

8.        In the days and months after Columbine, the nation looked for answers. It was, at the time, the deadliest school shooting in history. [3]  Many people, including school administrators, parents, and legislators, found those answers in the media descriptions of the shooters—Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Both Harris and Klebold were seniors at Columbine High School. They were described as loners, goths, and outcasts. There were reports that the shooters had been bullied. The day after the shooting, The Washington Post published an article stating that students at Columbine described Harris and Klebold as “constant target[s] of derision for at least four years” and said they were “constantly being ribbed by the school's athletes and other, more popular cliques” (Fisher, "Gunmen Recalled as Outcast"). There was some speculation that, in addition to being goths, the shooters were bullied because they were gay—another report that turned out to be unsubstantiated (Cullen 155). Multiple media outlets reported that the shooters were members of a group of outcasts who called themselves the Trench Coat Mafia. [4]  Of course, none of this was true. The two shooters were not part of the Trench Coat Mafia. They weren’t goths, both had friends, participated in school activities, and Klebold even attended prom with a date the weekend before the shooting. Most of the students interviewed, at least initially, didn’t know Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold at all and there’s some indication that the students were led in their descriptions by the questions posed to them by interviewers (Cullen 74).

9.        Regardless, the picture the American public received was of two bullied, lonely kids who snapped, lashed out and killed. Days after the shooting, Andrew Mitchell, a high school student who lived near Columbine and participated in the goth aesthetic, said, “picture these kids, for years being thrown around, treated horribly. After a while you can’t stand it anymore. They were completely wrong. But there are reasons for why they did it” (Cullen 157). This belief that Harris and Klebold were driven to violence by the cruelty of their peers came to shape public policy and private opinion. Even now, 20 years after Columbine, many people still believe that bullying is the driving force behind violence in schools. We know that wasn’t the case for Harris, who left behind a journal, videos, and a website detailing his plans and motivations (Cullen 169–70). In his journal Harris discusses the things and people he hates (pages and pages of them) and the things he loves (such as natural selection) (Cullen 183–84). He articulates his wish to kill multiple times. Only months after Columbine, at an FBI-organized summit on school shooters, psychologists who had been studying the case agreed that all indications pointed to Harris having been a textbook psychopath (Cullen 247). Klebold left a journal as well, but although it reveals his self-hatred and depression, it doesn’t offer many clues about what led him to murder his classmates. Most experts agree that he was led by Harris and likely wouldn’t have committed violence on his own (Cullen 188).

10.        Although the myth that Harris and Klebold resorted to violence as retaliation against their peers because of bullying has been debunked for over a decade, we still resort to that myth to explain violence in schools. Non-profits like Rachel’s Challenge, [5] Operation Respect, [6] and Sandy Hook Promise, and campaigns like "Walk Up Not Out," teach students that there’s a direct connection between bullying and violence. "Walk Up Not Out" was a countermovement to the walkout in response to the Parkland shooting in 2018. It was inspired by several online posts including a February 2018 Facebook post by David Blair in which he claimed that the solution to school shootings was kindness (Seelinger, "What Does 'Walk Up, Not Out' Mean?"). Blair writes:

Look around you at your classmates. Do you see the kid over in the corner, alone? He could likely be our next shooter. He needs a friend. He needs you. Go and talk to him, befriend him. Chances are, he won’t be easy to like, but it’s mainly because no one has tried to like him. Ask him about him. Get to know him. He’s just like you in that respect; he wants someone to recognize him as a fellow human being but few people have ever given him the chance. You can. . . . Gun control or more laws is not, and will not, be the answer. You are the answer. Your greeting, your smile, your gentle human touch is the only thing that can change the world of a desperate classmate who may be contemplating something as horrendous as a school shooting.
The message is clear: the kids are the problem, and not the ones killing people. School shooters are the natural result of loneliness and bullying. Kids who exclude others, kids who are mean, kids who don’t spend every moment reaching out to their peers create school shooters. While researchers, psychologists, and every well-informed adult knows this isn’t true, the kids subject to the anti-bullying programs don’t know it. And given that all states now have some kind of anti-bullying legislation, we can expect that almost every student in our classrooms who has attended public school (and some who attended private school) will have been influenced by the myth of Columbine [7] : be nice or else chances are good those you may have ignored or mistreated will kill you.

11.         It was exactly this belief that murder was a natural human reaction to rejection, isolation, and cruelty that influenced my students’ readings of Frankenstein. For them the Creature’s violence was inevitable and understandable, even if they didn’t think what he did was right. Frankenstein, like the anti-bullying programs in elementary and high school, seemed to them to be at best a warning and at worst a justification. I had thought that perhaps my students struggled with Frankenstein because they were unprepared to grapple with the complex questions it poses about how we become who we are and what we owe to each other. In actuality, they struggled because they’d been trained to believe they already knew the answers to those questions and could only see Frankenstein as an affirmation of those answers.

12.        To help them really engage with the text and move past reading Frankenstein as a didactic affirmation of their belief that murder was an unfortunate but understandable reaction to rejection, I structured the assignments so that they could challenge the anti-bullying rhetoric that shaped their reading by putting it into direct conversation with Frankenstein. My hope was that in pairing Frankenstein with texts like Elliot Rodger’s manifesto and Eric Harris’s journal my students would find a way to think about not only Frankenstein but also their own experiences as members of the post-Columbine generation. With anxiety and depression on the rise in college-aged students, I believe that it’s essential for us to cultivate spaces where our students can think critically about the world as it is now. I believe in the power of literature to teach us to do that. If our students can learn to think critically about the Creature’s claims that his actions are entirely the fault of those who treat him cruelly, they can use those same skills to think critically about the ways we’ve attached anti-bullying rhetoric to school shooting prevention in order to shift the blame onto the victims.

13.        In addition to Harris’s and Rodger’s writing, I also show them the 2016 Sandy Hook Promise Public Service Announcement (PSA), sometimes called "Evan." In it we watch two students, Evan and an unnamed young woman, flirt through graffiti they exchange on a library table. They finally meet face-to-face at the end of the year, realizing each other’s identity through their handwriting. As they talk, we see another student in the background throw open the gym door. He has a gun. As the students start to notice him, we see them run and hear them scream. The screen fades to black and the following message appears in white lettering, “As you were watching Evan another student was planning a school shooting. But no one noticed” ("Evan" 00:01:43). The PSA moves through the same frames we saw before, now highlighting the student in the background. We see the student looking at, drawing, and gesticulating guns. We see him sitting alone at a table and being bullied by a group of larger boys. At the end another message appears in white on the black background, “Gun violence is preventable when you know the signs” ("Evan" 00:02:18). It’s unclear who is being held accountable for not seeing these signs. The PSA is addressed to viewers, but in many of the scenes only other students are present and so logically they’re the ones who could have seen these signs. In essence, the PSA holds those students flirting, blithely self-absorbed in their teen romance, responsible for the actions of their classmate.

14.        When my students watch this PSA in conversation with Frankenstein, it makes them angry. They see that they are being told they must suspend their own feelings and desires on threat of violence and possibly death. Like the Creature, the PSA seems to say that we must give those who threaten us with violence what they want or suffer the consequences. I’ve now taught Frankenstein in conversation with school shootings and bullying rhetoric in three separate courses. Unfortunately, because of the increase in mass shootings, the resources available multiplied between each course. The sequence I describe below is a hybrid; it includes the materials from the most recent course along with edits I’ve made for the next iteration of the sequence.

Key Course Requirements

15.         Because creating dialogue between texts was essential to the aim of the class, I embedded dialogue into the structure of the class. I’ve done this in a number of ways, depending on the resources available but the essential feature is that students write regular responses to the assigned readings. They read and reply to each other’s responses, and all of these responses remain visible to them throughout the course. Most recently I used the discussion feature of our LMS, Canvas. Students were required to post their own thoughts in response to the readings at least once per week and were also required to comment on their peers’ posts. The discussion posts created dialogue between students prior to class, and often our in-class discussions picked up and pushed that dialogue further.

First Movement

16.        I begin the sequence fairly conventionally by assigning sections from Wollstonecraft. I have students read chapters two and four of A Vindication of the Rights of Women along with chapter one of Frankenstein. The Wollstonecraft reading positions students to discuss the language Victor uses when talking about Elizabeth. With Wollstonecraft as a resource, they notice that Elizabeth is presented as a “gift” to Victor and that Victor thinks of her as a possession (Shelley 41). This groundwork is important because it provides the conditions for an in-depth conversation about autonomy and gender—one of the ideas the novel investigates. In their posts my students discussed Wollstonecraft’s argument that social expectations and conventions shape identity by limiting freedom.

Second Movement

17.         The majority of pairings I assign are between chapters 10 and 20. I provide my students with selections from Elliot Rodger’s manifesto that reflect similar isolation, anger, and desire for violence. I’ve included them below with corresponding sections from Frankenstein. My students make the connections between the readings without prompting outside of my assigning them together. Below each pairing I’ve commented on my goals and the outcomes.

Pairing One

Humanity... All of my suffering on this world has been at the hands of humanity, particularly women. It has made me realize just how brutal and twisted humanity is as a species. All I ever wanted was to fit in and live a happy life amongst humanity, but I was cast out and rejected, forced to endure an existence of loneliness and insignificance, all because the females of the human species were incapable of seeing the value in me. This is the story of how I, Elliot Rodger, came to be. This is the story of my entire life. It is a dark story of sadness, anger, and hatred. It is a story of a war against cruel injustice. In this magnificent story, I will disclose every single detail about my life, every single significant experience that I have pulled from my superior memory, as well as how those experiences have shaped my views of the world. This tragedy did not have to happen. I didn’t want things to turn out this way, but humanity forced my hand, and this story will explain why. My life didn’t start out dark and twisted. I started out as a happy and blissful child, living my life to the fullest in a world I thought was good and pure. (Rodger 1)

All men hate the wretched; how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things! . . . Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you and the rest of mankind. If you will comply with my conditions, I will leave them and you at peace; but if you refuse, I will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends. (Shelley 90)

Every where I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. (Shelley 90)

Shall I not then hate them who abhor me? I will keep no terms with my enemies. I am miserable, and they shall share my wretchedness. (Shelley 91)

18.        I pair these sections to draw attention to two aspects of Shelley’s text. First, that the Creature’s argument is transactional in a very specific way. He expects that Victor will supply him with his desires, but he also expects that the people he encounters in the world will supply him with happiness and love. In the absence of the fulfillment of that expectation, the Creature and Rodger threaten violence. The feelings of others are, in a sense, held hostage. When my students read these passages together, they think about the implications of the conditions the Creature and Rodger place on the feelings of others. They ask what it means to offer kindness, friendship, or love out of fear of violence. In doing so, they start to question the anti-bullying rhetoric that asks exactly that of children and teenagers.

19.        My students also begin to question culpability. If Victor won’t cede to the demands of the Creature, is he responsible for the Creature’s actions? If the people he encounters don’t love him, are they responsible for the murders he commits? Set side-by-side with Rodger’s claim that others are responsible for his actions, they think more critically about how the text is questioning what is owed to us and what is not.

Pairing Two

I was completely and utterly alone. No one knew me or extended a hand to help me. I was an innocent, scared little boy trapped in a jungle full of malicious predators, and I was shown no mercy. Some boys randomly pushed me against the lockers as they walked past me in the hall. One boy who was tall and had blonde hair called me a “loser”, right in front of his girlfriends. Yes, he had girls with him. Pretty girls. And they didn’t seem to mind that he was such an evil bastard. In fact, I bet they liked him for it. This is how girls are, and I was starting to realize it. This was what truly opened my eyes to how brutal the world is. The most meanest and depraved of men come out on top, and women flock to these men. Their evil acts are rewarded by women; while the good, decent men are laughed at. It is sick, twisted, and wrong in every way. I hated the girls even more than the bullies because of this. The sheer cruelty of the world around me was so intense that I will never recover from the mental scars. Any experience I ever had before never traumatized me as much as this. (Rodger 48)

I never had my first kiss, I never held hands with a girl, I never lost my virginity. In the past, I felt so inferior and weak from all of the bullying that I just accepted my lonely life . . . but at this point I started to question why I was condemned to suffer such misery. (Rodger 54)

I could go nowhere without being insulted by my enemies. The mere sight of them enjoying their happy lives was an insult to me (Rodger 130)

The presence of Safie diffused happiness among its inhabitants; and I also found that a greater degree of plenty reigned there. Felix and Agatha spent more time in amusement and conversation, and were assisted in their labours by servants. They did not appear rich, but they were contented and happy; their feelings were serene and peaceful, while mine became every day more tumultuous. Increase of knowledge only discovered to me more clearly what a wretched outcast I was. I cherished hope, it is true; but it vanished, when I beheld my person reflected in water, or my shadow in the moonshine, even as that frail image and that inconstant shade.

I endeavoured to crush these fears, and to fortify myself for the trial which in a few months I resolved to undergo; and sometimes I allowed my thoughts, unchecked by reason, to ramble in the fields of Paradise, and dared to fancy amiable and lovely creatures sympathising with my feelings and cheering my gloom; their angelic countenances breathed smiles of consolation. But it was all a dream: no Eve soothed my sorrows, nor shared my thoughts; I was alone. I remembered Adam's supplication to his Creator; but where was mine? He had abandoned me; and, in the bitterness of my heart, I cursed him. (Shelley 114)

20.        These sections highlight how the possession of women factors into our ideas about masculinity and male happiness. Rejection by a woman, or women in general, is frequently cited as catalyst for violence by mass shooters; Eric Harris kept a hit list of young women he felt had rejected or spurned him, and Elliot Rodger claimed rejection was his primary motivation. Similarly, the Creature tells Victor that the one thing that will stop him from killing mankind is the creation of a woman specifically for him. When my students read these sections together, they want to talk about the responsibility being placed on women for men’s happiness and for the safety of others at the expense of their own happiness and safety. They begin to see parallels between this aspect of Frankenstein and our own culture and critique what they’ve been trained to believe.

21.        Often, this is a moment when my students bring Wollstonecraft back into play. Wollstonecraft’s argument that women have the same divine potential and expectations as men helps them think critically about how Frankenstein comments on the roles of women in society. In fact, my students this past semester pointed out that Victor’s fear that a female he created might not love the Creature is the first and only time in the novel that he recognizes the autonomy of a woman.

Pairing Three

I spent more time studying the world, seeing the world for the horrible, unfair place it is. I then had the revelation that just because I was condemned to suffer a life of loneliness and rejection, doesn’t mean I am insignificant. I have an exceptionally high level of intelligence. I see the world differently than anyone else. Because of all of the injustices I went through and the worldview I developed because of them, I must be destined for greatness. I must be destined to change the world, to shape it into an image that suits me! (Rodger 56)

I formed an ideology in my head of how the world should work. I was fueled both by my desire to destroy all of the injustices of the world, and to exact revenge on everyone I envy and hate. I decided that my destiny in life is to rise to power so I can impose my ideology on the world and set everything right. I was only seventeen, I have plenty of time. I thought to myself. I spent all of my time studying in my room, reading books about history, politics, and sociology, trying to learn as much as I can. I became a new person, furiously driven by a goal. My torment would continue, but I had something to live for. I felt empowered. (Rodger 57)

I have a goal to destroy as much as possible, and I must not be sidetracked by my feelings of sympathy, mercy or any of that. (Harris, qtd. in Johnson)

Slave, I before reasoned with you, but you have proved yourself unworthy of my condescension. Remember that I have power; you believe yourself miserable, but I can make you so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to you. You are my creator, but I am your master;—obey! (Shelley 142)

22.        Rodger, Harris, and the Creature all display narcissism here that is at direct odds to their claims of inferiority in other places. These passages position my students to think of violence in the novel and in our world as an expression of power, not of frustration, fear, or helplessness, as the anti-bullying movement often claims. This is the moment in the class when they most clearly critique the shooter-as-victim narrative. I also give them Gillian Brockell’s article "Bullies and Black Trench Coats: The Columbine Shooting’s Most Dangerous Myths." The article clearly lays out the misinformation that shaped the myth.

Pairing Four

All I ever wanted was to love women, and in turn to be loved by them back. Their behavior towards me has only earned my hatred, and rightfully so! I am the true victim in all of this. I am the good guy. Humanity struck at me first by condemning me to experience so much suffering. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t want this. I didn’t start this war... I wasn’t the one who struck first... But I will finish it by striking back. I will punish everyone. And it will be beautiful. Finally, at long last, I can show the world my true worth. (Rodger 137)

While I was overcome by these feelings, I left the spot where I had committed the murder, and seeking a more secluded hiding-place, I entered a barn which had appeared to me to be empty. A woman was sleeping on some straw; she was young: not indeed so beautiful as her whose portrait I held; but of an agreeable aspect, and blooming in the loveliness of youth and health. Here, I thought, is one of those whose joy-imparting smiles are bestowed on all but me. And then I bent over her, and whispered "Awake, fairest, thy lover is near—he who would give his life but to obtain one look of affection from thine eyes: my beloved, awake!"

The sleeper stirred; a thrill of terror ran through me. Should she indeed awake, and see me, and curse me, and denounce the murderer? Thus would she assuredly act, if her darkened eyes opened, and she beheld me. The thought was madness; it stirred the fiend within me not I, but she shall suffer: the murder I have committed because I am for ever robbed of all that she could give me, she shall atone. The crime had its source in her: be hers the punishment! Thanks to the lessons of Felix, and the sanguinary laws of man, I had learned now to work mischief. I bent over her, and placed the portrait securely in one of the folds of her dress. She moved again, and I fled. (Shelley 123)

23.        These last pairings reemphasize the danger to women I discussed above and the issues of responsibility and autonomy. Students want to discuss who is responsible for emotions, the person who experiences them or the one who may elicit them. The aim is not for my students to condone bullying or become callus to the suffering of others, but to help them question any rhetoric—individual or institutional—that holds them responsible for the feelings and actions of another person.

24.        I know that there’s some danger in pairing these texts together. There’s the possibility that my students will collapse historical distance and pay less attention to the particular moment that produced Frankenstein. It’s a risk I’m willing to take. At its best literature helps us understand the past and allows us to think more clearly about the present. At its very best it helps us imagine a better future. My hope is that through reading and thinking about Frankenstein in conversation with these contemporary horror stories my students and I can learn to do that.

Works Cited

Blair, David. "In Light of the Recent Tragedy in Florida." Facebook, 19 February 2018, https://www.facebook.com/marshalltuckerband/posts/10211391855328955. Accessed 28 October 2019.

"Bullying Statistics." National Voices for Equality, Education, and Enlightenment, 2016, http://www.nveee.org/statistics/. Accessed 28 October 2019.

Cullen, Dave. Columbine. Twelve Hachette Book Group, 2009.

Fisher, Marc. "Gunmen Recalled as Outcasts." The Washington Post, 21 April 1999, https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/daily/april99/suspects21.htm. Accessed 28 October 2019.

Gillian, Brockell. "Bullies and Black Trench Coats: The Columbine Shooting’s Most Dangerous Myths." The Washington Post, 20 April 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2019/04/19/bullies-black-trench-coats-columbine-shootings-most-dangerous-myths/. Accessed 28 October 2019.

Johnson, Kirk. "Journals Reveal Ruminations of Teenage Columbine Killers." The New York Times, 7 July 2006, https://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/07/us/07columbine.html. Accessed 28 October 2019.

Rodger, Elliot.My Twisted World: The Story of Elliot Rodger. https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/1173808/elliot-rodger-manifesto.pdf. Accessed 28 October 2019.

Sandy Hook Promise. "Evan." YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8syQeFtBKc, 2 December 2016. Accessed 28 October 2019.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein, edited by Johanna M. Smith, 1992.

Seelinger, Lani. "What Does 'Walk Up, Not Out' Mean? The National School Walkout Has A Countermovement." Bustle, 19 April 2018 https://www.bustle.com/p/what-does-walk-up-not-out-mean-the-national-school-walkout-has-a-countermovement-8794530. Accessed 29 October 2019.

Stuart-Cassel, Victoria, et al. "Analysis of State Bullying Laws and Policies." U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service, December 2011, https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/bullying/state-bullying-laws/state-bullying-laws.pdf. Accessed 28 October 2019.

"Timeline of School Shootings." U.S. News & World Report, 15 February 2018, https://www.usnews.com/news/national/articles/2008/02/15/timeline-of-school-shootings. Accessed 28 October 2018.


[1] While the police believed they were engaged in a standoff, the two shooters committed suicide inside the school just over 40 minutes after the beginning of the attack. The police didn’t realize that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were dead until they found their bodies hours later. In fact, at least one of Klebold and Harris’s victims bled to death after the shooters committed suicide while the police were securing the school (Cullen 83). BACK

[2] In addition to shooting classmates, Klebold and Harris planted bombs in and around the school. The bombs didn’t inflict the damage they had hoped—some of them didn’t even explode—but they still had to be carefully secured. BACK

[3] The actual body count—thirteen, including twelve students and one teacher—was significantly lower than the originally reported twenty-five (Brockell). BACK

[4] Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris weren’t part of the Trench Coat Mafia (TCM) but it did exist. The boys knew students who were part of the TCM—so dubbed because the members of the group all wore trench coats—but none of the members were involved in the shooting. Prior to the shooting on April 20, most members of the TCM had either graduated or stopped wearing trench coats to school. The confusion seems to have arisen from Dylan and Eric using trench coats on the day of the shootings at least in part to hide their weapons (Cullen 147–48). BACK

[5] Rachel’s Challenge was named after Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim of Harris and Klebold. BACK

[6] Project Respect has come to focus more on teaching emotional intelligence but was founded shortly after and in response to Columbine in 1999. BACK

[7] In fact, a National Voices for Equality, Education, and Enlightenment survey found that, “86% of students said, ‘other kids picking on them, making fun of them or bullying them’ causes teenagers to turn to lethal violence in schools” (Bullying Statistics). BACK