School attacks in Sweden are not likely to stop as the warning signs of violence are dismissed
On Monday, 21 March, the Swedish nation was shocked to hear the news of the violent crime at the Swedish high school. Two women in their 50s who worked as teachers at Latin High School, located in the third biggest Swedish city, have died after a violent crime at the school. The perpetrator is a student at the school whose signs of potential violent attacks were not enough to stop him.
An 18-year-old who had previously been taught by one of the teachers attacked them. He has not had any previous convictions or troubles with the police. Here is a quick look into what happened and how school killings are not likely to disappear.
Antisocial and has anger outbursts – signs were there
According to his classmates, friends, and teachers, he was withdrawn and spent most of his time playing computer games, drawing, and working out at the gym. His teachers had previously expressed concern about his antisocial behavior, and his case was frequently discussed by school psychologists and with the headteacher.
Despite receiving high grades, the perpetrator often reacted with anger if he did not receive the grade he felt he deserved. Some teachers expressed fears that he might carry out an attack during the last year.
There could have been more victims
The offender’s lawyer Anders Elison says that the act was not aimed at the two female teachers who were killed, and the suspect does not see any mitigating circumstances for the incident. He also says that the two teachers murdered were not intended to become victims and that there could have been more who died if more teachers or people had appeared at that moment.
There is a possibility of a trigger point in the near background that generated the outburst of violence, but the lawyer cannot give further comments since the case is under investigation. The 18-year-old confessed and admitted that he killed the two female teachers at Malmö Latin School on Monday and did not refuse the arrest request.
Unusual but not unknown crime in Sweden
School attacks are relatively rare in Sweden. However, in recent years, the country has become more accustomed to shootings and bombings in criminal settings that kill many people each year. In southern Sweden, several serious incidents have taken place at schools in recent months.
School killings in Sweden are not likely to stop
Researcher at the University of Gothenburg Christer Mattsson says that school attacks like the one at Malmö Latin School will happen again. The act of violence at Malmö Latin School was the third school attack in seven months in the southern county of Sweden – Skåne. According to Mattsson, there is a great risk that other young people, so-called "copycats," will be inspired to commit similar crimes.
According to Christer Mattsson, schools, authorities, and society must become better at picking up the signals, both the acute and the more far-reaching ones, to prevent school attacks in the future.
Attacks at schools in the US and around the world
So far, in 2022, there have been at least 27 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, resulting in 4 deaths and 18 injuries nationally. Over several years of tracking the school shooting data in the US, it is clear that the gunfire on school grounds takes many different forms and mirrors the issue of gun violence in the US.
While many Americans advocate for tighter gun control policies, which could potentially curb gun-related violence, many others feel that the restrictions would violate the guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms which is included in the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.
Although, globally, school violence is not always a gun issue. For instance, the suspect in the recent Sweden school shooting most likely did not carry a gun since the police had seized “several weapons that are not firearms” at the scene. Also, the gun ownership rate in Sweden is more than five times lower than in the US.
Know the signs
In almost all documented school shooting cases, the offender demonstrates warning signs before they decide to carry out an act of violence. Bullying can also play a significant part in destabilizing students’ mental health. Missing these signs can lead to tragic results. Therefore it is important to know what to look for.
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Kristiana Nitisa is an investigative journalist based in Sweden. She is also a research journalist at the International Youths Organization for Peace and Sustainability.
Inputs and Edits by Sovena Ngeth.