The suspect had no history of violence, officials said.

"He was a timid boy, who was having difficulty integrating, but he never displayed any violent attitudes," a local education official said.

The “suspect” was a fifteen year old boy who shot up a classroom at his school, killing three and wounding five of his classmates.

When did this happen? September 29, 2004.

Where did this happen? In a small town in a country considered to be the safest in South America. Argentina.

After the shootings at Columbine High School happened in April of 1999, a counselor in Iowa attempted to get some other counselors to discuss it in a graduate class at a university. No one picked up on the idea. After the class, she approached several of the counselors and asked why. The answer was, “This is Iowa. That kind of thing doesn’t happen here.”

The BBC World News report I heard regarding the shootings in Argentina this week mentioned that the officials had had the same type of mindset. They were horrified. This type of thing happens in the United States. It doesn’t happen here.

A school counselor in the Northeast US contacted me a few months ago. She was looking for statistics on the effectiveness of anti-bullying programs. They had done a survey of graduating seniors to determine how many of them had been bothered by bullying. Seventy-seven percent of them said they had not. On the basis of that majority, the school officials felt that such a program was not really necessary.

Who are we kidding here? Seventy-seven percent had not been bothered by it. That means that twenty-three percent, or nearly one-fourth of the graduating seniors had been.

If there was some impending danger, health problem, or safety violation that potentially impacted twenty-three percent of the population it would probably make the national news.

In 2003 I presented a session on Mobbing and Risk Management at the National Safety Council's Safety and Health Summit in Omaha, NE. Subsequently NIOSH did a survey on bullying in the workplace and determined that forty percent of workers experience this behavior.

NIOSH also recommended programs that improve relationships between coworkers in addition to supervisor-employees and customer-employees to address this issue.

Dignity and Respect works. “No exceptions” is the problem. It requires that we look at people and situations without conditions. We must separate people from their behavior, honor the individual while addressing the behavior, stop looking at each other as objects and opportunities rather than as human beings.

Yes we live in complicated times and face complicated issues. The solutions to some of these issues do not have to be complicated, though they are not always easy to do. It takes thought, paying attention, insight and awareness, holding onto our personal power and remembering that all people want and have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, no exceptions.

We all have wants, hopes, needs, desires, people who love us, and people we love. So does every other person on the planet, regardless of how reprehensible the conduct.

Have you ever been involved in a mobbing?
Have you ever made fun of people behind their backs?
Spread unkind rumors?
Humiliated someone and then acted like it was a joke?
Most people have at some time in their lives, myself included.

After a presentation I did this week, one of the people came up to me and said that initially she didn’t think mobbing had anything to do with her but then realized that it did.

It is what many of us do when we lack insight and awareness.
It is what we do when we don’t think before speaking or acting.
It is what we do when we react rather than respond.
It is what we do when we get caught up in someone else’s agenda.
It is what we do when we are not true to our best selves.
It is something that each of us can heal.

Most of the good and caring people in the audience realized that this had impacted their lives and they had done it to someone without realizing the impact. Now that they knew, they wanted to make sure that they didn’t do it again. That is all it takes to make a difference.

©2004 Gail Pursell Elliott All Rights Reserved.
For permission to reprint in a newsletter or publication, to use in your classroom, or to reproduce on your website, contact Gail at or 515.388.9600

Author's Bio: 

Speaker, Author, Trainer and Consultant, graduate of Penn State University, post-graduate education certificate work at the University of South Florida, member of American Mensa, Member of the American Society for Training and Development, is founder of Innovations “Training With A Can-Do Attitude” , located in central Iowa.
Gail is author of the book School Mobbing and Emotional Abuse: See It – Stop It – Prevent It with Dignity and Respect, “Food For Thought”, a column that is distributed internationally by email and is often reprinted in various publications, and co-author of the book Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace, Her articles have appeared not only in printed media, but some can be viewed on the Internet on such sites as the Iowa Business Network,, Motivating Moments, and She has created mobbing awareness posters for both schools and workplaces, inspirational posters, dignity and respect T-shits, and writes and designs training, motivation, and inspirational materials,Gail has over 20 years of professional experience in administration, recruitment, training, and motivation. Operating from the basic premise that ‘all people want and have the right to be treated with dignity and respect … no exceptions’ she travels nationally to conduct staff and supervisory training for both profit and not-for-profit organizations and a see-it/stop-it/prevent-it approach to emotional abuse in schools and workplaces. She designs sessions upon request to address specific needs and timely issues, and is a featured speaker at conferences as well as a sought after media expert on workplace and school violence.

Gail has been a guest on such programs as MSNBC’s Deborah Norville Tonight, ABC World News Now television programs and the Workplace Violence Today program on talk radio.