Two math teachers have been killed in two days, in school violence incidents in Nevada and Massachusetts. The killing of math teachers initially surfaced at the beginning of the modern era of school shootings.
More on that history in a moment, but first, some details on today's event.
The 14-year-old boy who was arraigned (October 23, 2013) Wednesday afternoon on a murder charge in the death of a Massachusetts teacher was named in court as Philip Chism. He is being held without opportunity for bail in the death of Colleen Ritzer, a teacher at Danvers High School in Danvers, Massachusetts.
WCVB-TV reports that after the gruesome killing Chism (pictured) walked to the nearest movie theater and watched Blue Jasmine, a movie about a middle-aged woman's mental breakdown.
The 14-year-old boy was being held on suspicion of murder Wednesday after the body of a female teacher was found in woods near the high school in Danvers, Massachusetts. All seven schools in the suburban Boston town were closed as a result of the investigation. The report of Colleen Ritzer's death comes two days after a student with a gun killed a teacher in Sparks, Nevada.
Authorities found Ritzer's body behind Danvers High School after the 24-year-old failed to return home after classes Tuesday, the Essex County District Attorney's Office said. Searchers found blood in a second-floor bathroom, District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett told reporters at a news conference. He did not release the cause of her death. The boy, who also had been reported missing Tuesday afternoon, was arrested early Wednesday after being found walking down a street, Blodgett said.
There are no other suspects, he said. He was arraigned Wednesday afternoon in Salem, Massachusetts, on a murder charge and was ordered held without bail. Blodgett did not say whether the boy is a student at the school and said he could not release the boy's name or his connection to Ritzer because he is a juvenile. "This is a terrible tragedy for Colleen Ritzer and the entire Danvers community," Blodgett said. Ritzer graduated from Assumption College in 2011, the school said on Twitter. She in was pursuing a master's degree in school counseling at Salem State University, that school said in a prepared statement.
"As a dedicated teacher, Colleen wanted to work with and help children with special needs," an e-mail from the university read. "She believed children have much to offer and often do not realize how special they are as individuals.
In her application to Salem State she said she was dedicated to 'helping students in times of need.' " Ritzer's aunt, Shirley Martellucci, said the family was in shock. "We're holding up as best we can," she said. Ritzer, who lived with her parents, was in her second year teaching at the school and was working on her master's degree, Martellucci said. She had never had any trouble with students, she said. "She always wanted to be a teacher, all her life," Martellucci said.
"It's just unbelievable that someone would take her life at such a young age." Ritzer's students were similarly dismayed.
Freshman Spencer Wade described Ritzer as "one of the best math teachers I've ever had."
As noted in great detail in The Copycat Effect, the "modern era" of school shootings began in the USA on February 2, 1996, in Moses Lake, Washington.
The new pattern that was shown in that shooting was of a male student (not an outsider) entering the school and killing his classmates and teachers. In the Moses Lake event, Barry Loukaitis, 14, in this Columbine precusor, dressed all in black, including a long coat (apparently more of a Western duster than a trenchcoat), held his algebra class hostage, killed two students, wounded another severely, and killed his algebra teacher, Leona Caires.
Loukaitis then turned to the class and said "This sure beats algebra, doesn't it?"
The quotation was nearly a direct one taken from a Stephen King book, Rage, about a school shooting of an algebra teacher that Loukaitis allegedly used as the model for his attack. The first novel by Stephen Kingpublished under the pseudonym Richard Bachman in 1977. King withdrew the book from publication three years later, after Columbine.
Loukaitis had planned the shootings carefully, getting ideas, he said, from the Stephen King book Rage (1977). In it, a troubled high school boy takes a gun to fictional Placerville High School, kills his algebra teacher “Mrs. Underwood,” another school adult “Mr. Vance,” and takes the algebra class hostage. Police would find a collection of Stephen King's books in Loukaitis' bedroom, including his well-worn copy of Rage.
The Rage scenario had been played out before in real life. At Valley High School, Las Vegas, Nevada, on March 19, 1982, after algebra teacher Clarence Piggot refused to cancel a public speaking assignment; 17-year-old Patrick Lizotte gunned him down. Patrick also wounded two other 17-year-old students during his rampage. He left the school and was killed nearby during a shootout with the police. On January 18, 1993, Scott Pennington, 17, took his senior English class captive at East Carter High School, in Grayson, Kentucky. He killed his teacher and a custodian. Pennington would tell investigators later that he only read Rage after the shooting. In 1997, Rage would be linked to another shooting. A copy of Rage was found in the locker of Michael Carneal, a high school shooter in West Paducah, Kentucky.
Stephen King discussed the role of Rage after the Loukaitis shootings and eventually King apologized for writing the book, saying he penned it during a troubling period in his life. He said he wished it never had been published. Finally in 1999, he told his publisher to pull it from publication and took it out-of-print. He told the Today Show’s Katie Couric: “I took a look at Rage and said to myself, if this book is acting as any sort of accelerate, if it’s having any effect on any of these kids at all, I don’t want anything to do with it, regardless of what may be the moral and legal rights and wrongs. Even talking about it makes me nervous.”