|One man’s belief that the Jonesboro Sun and the National Media blacked out a serious paddling angle on a tragedy
that got national attention.|
| Our knowledge about paddling’s “non-help” with school shootings will not come from this or any other single case. We know that paddling does not help with mass shootings from broad statistics and reports. School shootings are most common in “zero tolerance” schools, whether paddling or non, and the perpetrators are most likely to be boys who have had prior discipline in the school. Harsh discipline, whether paddling or suspension, seems to be a catalyst for these rampages, rather than a help. If a school is a paddling school, then we can infer from the FBI report that the shooters were likely to have been paddled, simply because a common element of school shooters is that they were disciplined, and that the schools they attended were "harsh."|
| With that here are Eric’s quotes that he found on the subject and thought relevant to paddling. Many of them have been verified, and others are given as "leads" for interested readers to pursue and verify. (Eric himself helped track down a number of them after I sent him a preview of this section).|
| Eric’s Letter (the letter is quite long so the “first person” you are reading in the next few pages is Eric)|
I am certain that Mitchell Johnson was paddled the day before he participated in the shooting at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, AR. I discovered this in an article, which appeared in the Boston Globe. I spoke to the author who traveled to Jonesboro to cover the story. She said that "everyone" knew that he had been paddled. She was personally told of this by teachers, parents and students. It was common knowledge. The only witness to the beating may be the assailant, and she may have been killed in the shooting--by the victim.
I believe the following not only demonstrates that Mitchell was paddled the day prior, but that this beating led directly to the violence that came the next day.
1. "Students also said the older boy had gotten into trouble Monday at school and was angry with one of the teachers, but authorities refused to confirm that. One teacher said the teacher the boy was angry with had been shot." (“Two camouflage-clad boys arrested in schoolyard shootings,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 3/25/98)
2. "On Monday, classmates and their parents said, Johnson brought a pocket knife to school, and rumors spread through the hallways that he had been paddled for the violation, a practice allowed in Arkansas schools. " (“Arkansas boys showed a taste for violence,” By Ellen O'Brien, Globe Staff, 03/26/98, verified—Jeff)
3. "It was not immediately clear what the boys' motives were, although local reports said they may have been recently disciplined by school teachers."
(“Four Killed in Arkansas School Shooting,” Reuters 3/24/98).
4. "Beyond vague references to getting even with people who had been mean to him, he seemed to have no motive." (“Jonesboro Dazed by Its Darkest Day,” New York Times, 4/18/98, verified--Jeff)
"A former lawyer for one of the two boys accused in the ambush killings at an Arkansas school says his ex-client told him he opened fire on teachers and students because he wanted to hurt people who hurt him. 'He was so angry at the hurt he had had in the past and he wanted to scream out and teach everybody a lesson,'' Tom Furth of Ohio said about 13-year-old Mitchell Johnson in an ABC News "20/20 Friday'' interview. 'He said, "Now the world knows that they can't hurt people and get away with it."'
(Associated Press, 4/17/98)
By the way, this attorney was "removed" from the case by an Arkansas judge. The lawyer had this to say: "The real reason they wanted to remove me is that I'm pointing out things the community of Jonesboro doesn't want to hear," he said.
Interesting, since I spoke with the reporter in Jonesboro and he told me he definitely would not write about the paddling in the local newspaper, The Jonesboro Sun. When I asked him why, he said he's sick of people blaming Southern culture for the shooting. Well, maybe it is to blame and they know it.
(Note—I didn’t even try to re-contact that reporter. I’m not sure he would remember making the comment or would verify it if he did. A verification that the attitude Eric described existed in Jonesboro at the time came out in several stories, however, including the comment, from “Jonesboro Dazed by Its Darkest Day” in the NYT, 4/18/98: “As much as Jonesboro is puzzled by its tragedy, all the people here are a little tired of talking about it. ‘Before we can start to heal, we got to quit scratching,’ Mr. Golden said. ‘It’s like scratching a sore.’”)
5. "Arkansas State Police investigator Rick Dickinson said in his report that he also heard an officer ask "Why?" when the two boys were arrested. Dickinson said he heard Mitchell reply, "Anger, I guess." (Can readers help with this one?)
6. "Mitchell killed sixth-grade English teacher Shannon Wright, 32, with a .30-06 rifle, the reports indicated. Andrew wounded sixth-grade world history teacher Lynette Thetford, 42, with a .30-caliber carbine." This refers to a ballistics report tracing each bullet back to each shooter. (Can readers help with this one?)
7. ``I never even paddled him,'' said Thetford, who taught Andrew. (Andrew Golden was the other boy involved in the shooting.)
This is an extremely revealing statement. In other words, 'why did he shoot me, I didn't even paddle him.' This is critical since it shows:
a) She realizes that if she HAD paddled him then she would understand why he shot her. She is admitting that paddling could conceivably lead a child to commit murder.
b) It suggests that she knows that Mitchell was paddled, and that she clearly attributes his violent act to this beating by contrasting his situation with that of Andrew, who, on the other hand, she says was not beaten (at least not by her). Just imagine her saying this and I think you'll agree that this must be her understanding. Why else would she even say anything about paddling anyone?
(Quote was from “Jonesboro Dazed by Its Darkest Day,” New York Times, 4/18/98, verified--Jeff)
I think the parents of the dead children should sue the school for allowing the paddling, which may have contributed to the deaths of their children. Of course in the South the trial would be doomed at every level.
| I did search out the lengthy article Eric sent from the Boston Globe and confirmed it. It was called: |
Arkansas boys showed a taste for violence
|By Ellen O'Brien, Globe Staff, 03/26/98|
The article talks about how “before the bloodletting” Andrew Golden and Mitchell Johnson liked to wear camouflage and go hunting—like many other boys in the rural area. They were also often in trouble at school. They had recently developed a fascination with violence. Johnson liked to tell kids he was a member of “the Bloods”—a street gang, and he would sometimes pretend to shoot other students with his hand. When his sixth grade girlfriend broke up with him because she didn’t want to date a boy in a gang, he threatened to kill her and “anyone else who got in the way.”
Johnson’s younger friend, Andrew Golden, was a constant distraction to other kids in science class, shooting rubber bands at them and such. On the day of the violence the younger boy triggered a false fire alarm, causing hundreds of students to file outside. Johnson and Golden then fired into the exposed crowd—apparently with some very specific targets. The shootings, although mass, were not entirely random.
Johnson’s ex-girlfriend was hit, as was the female teacher who may have paddled him the day before, as well as many other female victims. Some died and some were wounded.
The younger 11-year-old Golden was the son of two postmasters and was a trained shooter. Johnson’s parents were divorced and his father lived in Minnesota. The article noted that “in Arkansas, it is legal for juveniles to possess shotguns or rifles, although they cannot have handguns.”