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Russian society in dismay over country’s first-ever school shooting

February 05, 2014, 15:47 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Mikhail Pochuyev

MOSCOW, February 5. /ITAR-TASS/. Last Monday’s tragedy at Moscow school #263, located in the northern neighborhood of Otradnoye, has literally stunned Russian society. It was an exact replica of what happens now and then in schools across the US and in some well-off European countries as well, with the sole difference in being the first-ever such incident to have taken place in Russia. A teenage boy in his last but one year at school armed with hunting weapons which his father had legally kept at home entered the building in broad daylight and shot dead his geography teacher - a man of about 30 - and also one of the police who had arrived at the scene in response to the school security guard’s alarm call and gravely injured another. For some time he kept 24 students hostage in one of the classrooms. The murderer - a fifteen year-old teenager - had had an impeccable record and is said to have been one of the best as far as academic progress is concerned.

One of the most widely discussed explanations is that the teenager might have sought revenge against his teacher who, in the boy’s opinion, underestimated his performance in class and thereby stripped him of a chance to graduate from school with a gold medal. At this point it is known that investigators have confined themselves to ordering the boy’s examination by psychiatrists. Later in the same day, hours after the killings, Investigative Committee officials began to speculate that the boy must have suffered a nervous breakdown. There has been no chance of leaving the boy to the care of his parents, because both father and mother have been unavailable on the phone and as a matter of fact have preferred to stay aloof, taking no steps to defend their son.

Article 20 of the Criminal Code allows for criminal proceedings against teenagers starting from the age of 14 for committing exceptionally grave crimes, such as murder and hostage-taking.

This high-profile crime has had a shell-shock effect on society. Everybody is discussing possible measures to prevent other such incidents from happening in the future. Some have been wondering about who should be brought to justice - the parents, school psychiatrists, school security personnel or society in general for failing to bring up the young properly.

The Moscow Prosecutor’s Office has launched an urgent probe into security measures at the city’s educational establishments, while the department of education has issued orders to tighten security measures. The supervising authorities should pay the greatest attention to the procedure of concluding contracts for the protection of schools and pre-school child-care centers, as well as the availability of alarm buttons and video surveillance systems in all rooms.

Russia’s Civic Chamber is going to hold special discussions on the teenage crime problem. This time legislators are not unanimous in their demands for tightening control measures. Far greater attention is to be paid to informational and psychological aspects of the environment where the younger generation has to grow up.

“It is essential for us now to understand what is happening to our youngsters,” the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta quotes the chief of the Civic Chamber’s commission for the problem of citizens’ security and cooperation with the judiciary and the law enforcement, Anatoly Kucherena, as saying. “It is a whole package of issues concerning legislation, law enforcement practices, security systems and also the definition of areas of competence and responsibility of education establishments’ personnel and of the parents. Also, it encompasses even PCs and social networks.”

There have been proposals for revising the article of the Criminal Code concerning improper execution of parental duties. For instance, such an idea has been put forward by the leader of the human rights movement Resistance, Civic Chamber member Olga Kostina. “Russia holds first place in Europe for the number of murders among teenagers. Only making punishments harsher would not help. We should give thought to making parents answerable for instructing their teenage offspring in the use of firearms, but at the same time failing to pay due attention to their psychological condition,” she said.

The Moscow city legislature has suggested arming the security personnel guarding schools and pre-school centers with self-defense means, electric shockers and clubs. Experts believe that in order to enhance the level of security at schools it will be important to raise the standards for private security firms.

The leader of the non-governmental organization Civil Security, Sergei Grinin, believes that “armed checkpoints alone will be able to enhance the level of schools’ protection, while the discussions of all other measures will remain meaningless noises.”

Calls for tightening the procedure of selling firearms are heard again and again. “That schoolboy had access to firearms. This indicates that weapons were kept in violation of the established rules. Apparently, the punishment for such a crime must be tightened,” says the first deputy chairman of the State Duma’s committee for civil, criminal, arbitration and procedural legislation, Viktor Pinsky.

The deputy chairman of the State Duma’s committee for education, Viktor Shudegov, believes that professionalism of school psychoanalysts should be in the focus of attention as well. “Ten years ago, when the institution of school psychoanalysts was introduced, very few competent specialists were to go around. The required personnel then were trained in all conceivable ways. It turned out that the people who are taking this position these days are very indifferent towards their duties or have forged education certificates,” the daily Izvestia quotes Shudegov as saying.

In the meantime, the State Duma’s information policies, IT technologies and communication committee are getting down to drafting amendments to the law on the protection of children from information harmful to minors’ health and development. The amendments to the document will concern the rules of selling computer games, as well as blocking pirate websites that invite everyone to download any computer game on offer. Legislators believe that complete freedom on the market of computer games creates a situation where youngsters get free access to shooting games that are meant for adult gamers only.

Psychologists and psychiatrists claim that access to such games at young age and obsession with them may bring about negative changes in the person’s mentality.

The Russian Orthodox Church blames the tragedy on the mass media. Bishop Tikhon, of Podolsk, said that adults should do their utmost to not only instruct children in various academic subjects and sciences, but, which is far more important, also “to educate and to protect them from platitude and cruelty that keep pouring on the audiences from the Internet and the mass media.”


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