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Oklahoma school commission hears about shootings, honor culture

The Oklahoma Commission on School Security met Feb. 12. The group heard from Dr. Ryan Brown, an associate psychology professor from the University of Oklahoma, and David Cid, executive director for the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Published: February 13, 2013

Small towns aren't immune from school shooting rampages, a psychologist told a statewide panel looking at school security issues in Oklahoma.

“In these rampage shootings like Newtown and Columbine, the median town size was only about 9,000,” said Ryan Brown, associate professor of psychology at the University of Oklahoma. “If you only have 9,000 people in your town, you don't have four high schools, five or six junior highs. You have one.”

Brown presented research findings to the Oklahoma Commission on School Security. The commission met for the third time Tuesday afternoon at the state Capitol.

Brown discussed the honor culture, a social system that focuses on the earning and maintenance of reputation.

Men are revered for strength and toughness; women are valued for loyalty and purity.

It's common in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Central and South America, Brown said.

It's also common in parts of the southern and western United States, he said, and Oklahoma is considered an honor culture state.

Honor cultures are associated with higher rates of depression, suicide, accidental death, risk taking, lower mental health care funding and argument-related homicides, Brown said. Students are more likely to bring weapons to school or attempt a school bombing.

School shootings — and especially rampage shootings — are also more common, Brown said.

The good news, though, is that school shooters in honor cultures are more likely to talk about their plans, Brown said.

“In almost every case, the perpetrators of these shootings have told someone their plans,” Brown said. “This creates an opportunity for us to prevent these attacks.”

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