Editor’s Note: Laura L. Lovett is an associate professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a founding co-editor of the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth.
By Laura L. Lovett, Special to CNN
(CNN) - “I don’t like Mondays.” This was the answer given by one of America’s first contemporary mass school shooters, Brenda Spencer, when asked why she had fired 30 rounds with a semiautomatic rifle at a San Diego elementary schoolyard on January 29, 1979.
She killed the school’s principal and custodian and wounded nine schoolchildren, some as young as 8.
So unfathomable was the event at the time that this action even inspired a popular song.
But today, Spencer has been nearly lost to our collective memory.
Why is she not remembered? Perhaps because she is one of only two female school shooters that we know of. (In 1985, Heather Smith shot her ex-boyfriend and another boy at her high school before committing suicide.)
Masculinity, mental illness and guns: A lethal equation?
Our biases about gender and violence predispose us to want to make Spencer the outlier.
While it is true that most school shooters have been male and that our cultural association of masculinity and violence may contribute to a shooter’s profile, this association also leads our society to de-emphasize what we might learn from women like Spencer.
And while all of these shootings have complex causes that cannot be reduced to gender alone, when we try to make sense of these tragedies by going back to history of school shootings, we need to do so with a clear eye in order to make meaningful comparisons.
By CNN Staff
(CNN) - Jessica Rees was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 11, and she and her parents would drive to the hospital every day to receive outpatient treatment.
"One day we were leaving, and she just simply asked us, 'When do all the other kids come home?'" said her father, Erik.
When Jessica found out that many of them would have to stay at the hospital, she wanted to help "make them happier, because I know they're going through a lot, too," she said.
So she started making JoyJars - containers full of toys, stickers, crayons, anything that might brighten a child's day.
"She was really particular about what would go in the jars," said her mother, Stacey. "It had to be something cool, it couldn't be cheap or flimsy."
Jessica created 3,000 JoyJars before she passed away this January. But her parents are carrying on her legacy.
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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