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What Causes April Tragedies?

School Attack Plots in April. Copycats or Coincidence?


Students at Chesterfield High School in South Carolina are arriving at school this morning to metal detectors and police presence following a weekend arrest of a student accused of plotting an attack on the school. The alleged mastermind, Ryan Schallenberger, 18, is due in court this afternoon for a bond hearing. He was arrested this weekend after his parents alerted police to the 10 pounds of ammonium nitrate that was delivered to their home and their discovery of a disturbing journal. Police said that he'd kept a journal for more than a year detailing his plans for a suicide attack and including maps of the school and that "he seemed to hate the world. He hated people different from him—the rich boys with good-looking girlfriends."

Earlier this month, a group of third graders in Georgia were discovered to have conceived of a plan to knock their teacher unconscious with a paperweight, bind her with toy handcuffs and duct tape, and then stab her with a steak knife. It seems as though the nine boys and girls divvied up tasks to carry out the plan, with one plotting to cover up the window while another would be assigned to clean up the mess. The students were discovered and have been suspended. These April plots were foiled but there's a huge list that weren't. To consider why, read more.

April is a scary month. In the past 15 years, the month has seen the Virginia Tech massacre and the Columbine shootings, not to forget the Waco incident and the Oklahoma City bombing. All of these events happened within the same week of the month. Historically, both Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated during this month, which also marked the start of both the American Revolution and Civil War.

Do we perceive a cloud of tragedy over the month precisely because news of anniversaries of events like Virginia Tech meets new instances like the weekend arrest in South Carolina and prompts people to pay more attention to the possibility for coincidence? Or have these plots truly become a copycat tribute to atrocities that have come before? Some scientists think that the increased light during the month of April lifts the previously depressed into a manic state. Having had all winter alone with dark thoughts, the mentally disturbed awake with new motivation behind their rage.

Police in South Carolina say that in his journal, Schallenberger said he admired the two attackers who killed 13 people at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 before committing suicide. The Columbine attack happened nine years ago Sunday. Did the parents and police discover a copycat catastrophe just in time, or was it just a coincidence? Is it seasonal? What do you think is causing the plague of April?

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