Has there ever been an "academically sucessful" school shooter?

We all understand that school shootings by students are typically from disgruntled troubled people with the problems that we can all imagine on some level. But i was wondering if there were any examples of school shooters that were “sucessful” on a school level, meaning they were perhaps the potential Validictorian of the school or even just a straight A student or the guy who had been nominated as Prom King or something along those lines?

Interesting question. I’m guessing no because smarter kids realize that school shooting is not only wrong but suicidal. They also probably have more friends and a more solid family home situation, but that’s pure speculation.

That is going to depend to a great extent on what definition you use for “school shooting” . If your definition of “school shooting” only incudes people who kill/injure four or more randomly chosen people for non-specific reasons, then no, there are probably not going to be any “successful” students on the list. If you use a wider definition ( which I have seen) that only excludes police-involved shootings, murder-suicides by rejected suitors and suicides, then you are going to have some “successful” students who shot one particular person who bullied them , or a teacher who gave them their only poor grade or in a fight with a specific person or people that started for a specific reason.

I don’t know about his grades, but Charles Whitman, the “Texas Tower Sniper” from 1966 who killed 14 people and wounded 31, was famously an Eagle Scout. He was also “an accomplished pianist” and ran an extensive paper route.

Academic records for minors are not public information, so we’re often limited in what we know about them based on what’s shared by family and acquaintances in the aftermath. But using this list of school shootings in the US, there were school shooters who appeared to have been academically successful. Several are described as being honors students or taking advanced courses.

This paper reports a 2002 study that said the majority of student shooters were “academically successful.”

The majority of attackers were academically successful students (41%) earning A’s and B’s in their course work.


According to the report, the majority of > perpetrators showed no significant change in academic performance (56%), friendship > patterns (73%), interest in school (59%), or school disciplinary problems (68%) prior to the violent attack (Lee, 2013).

There’s not a lot written about academic performance of specific shooters, but Columbine killer Dylan Klebold was said to have been in a program for gifted students while he attended elementary school.

He wasn’t a shooter, and he wasn’t a kid, but Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber, skipped two grades (which didn’t help him emotionally), was a National Merit Scholarship finalist, graduated from high school at 15 and admitted to Harvard on a scholarship when he was 16.

The first one that occurred to me was the Virginia Tech shooter. I can’t find what his grades were, but he was working on an undergraduate degree in English, hoping to become an author. Since his grades were high enough to get him into the school that couldn’t have been all that bad.

He also had all kinds of mental problems, starting in grade school. Just reading his wiki tells you how bad mental health care is in the US. Even with all his problems, the best he received was outpatient treatment. And that’s with his parents trying to get him help.

I’ve known a couple people in their 20s and in grad school who “went off their meds” and became violent. Not as bad as going into school shooter mode but scary.

Campus police would be called, they would be banned from campus, etc. But there was still a period after each incident were people were worried about an “unauthorized visit”.

And at one University there was a “problem” prof. He was a known sexual harasser plus he once went off on a grad student, slamming them into a filing cabinet. This place was so messed up that the guy didn’t lose his job or anything.

I don’t seen any reason why smart people would be excluded from the school shooter category. (And it seems that there could be reasons which push them into scary behavior a bit more than most.)

These guys killed their parents, not their teachers. But it seems they did just fine in school.

Quote from the Wiki article: "The trio were butchering the deer in the shower at Whitman’s dormitory when they were arrested. . . " This is some time before the shooting. I’m not sure how common butchering deer was in Texas at the time, but that just sounds batshit crazy currently. But, I think there were three guys there. But, still. . .

You’re absolutely correct - there’s no reason whatsoever. “Smart” is not the opposite of “bad,” and it’s dangerous to suggest that a smart person would somehow have a stronger moral compass or be less susceptible to mental illness.

Just want to say that this quote (quoted by, not said by, Kent_Clark) shows, um, a lack of academic success in either math or language skills, if not both.

Yeah, I saw it and probably should have added a (sic). My WAG is that there’s a missing word there. “Academically successful” does not necessarily mean A or B grades

True as to smart and bad and smart vs moral.

But many (most?) significant mental ilnesses compromise general life sucess. Yes, you can totally be a genius and simultaneously a nut. But it’s hard to be a genius, a nut, and a success. #2 works real hard against achieving #3.

As well, failing at school would certainly be an additional stressor on any kid, and feed feelings of inadequacy and perhaps persecution. Depending on the school and community standards, there may also be social ostracism for any/all less successful students. And kids are quite merciless with “weirdos” in their midst, which is how folks with mental illness often present.

All of which would push some incremental number of borderline “bad” or “crazy” kids over edge into revenge shootings of what they see as their tormentors.

There are lots of interconnected stressors and risk factors which have been correlated to behavioral and academic problems at school and beyond, but I was only really commenting on the idea that a smart kid would be more likely to say, “hey, shooting up a school is morally bad” than an average (or even below average) kid would.

I thought the point was that an unsuccessful kid was more likely to have bad feelings about the school, while someone doing very well would think of it as a great place, and wouldn’t want to shoot it up. If you have fantasies about shooting up or bombing some place, it’s going to be the place that makes you feel miserable.

Adults who go on rampages frequently do so at their workplaces, not the places they go to relax and have fun.

I don’t think “it’s suicidal” comes as a surprise to most school shooters. It seems that’s the actual end goal for a whole lot of them.

Somebody who’s doing well academically but poorly socially may well think of school as an unpleasant place, feel miserable there, and not feel relaxed there.

(raises hand, though it didn’t lead me to want to shoot anybody)

This. All of it.

One analysis I recall of school age killers (they focused a case of on two of them conspired to kill a third) was interesting. Their environment was the typical “isolated by themselves in the basement” suburban teen kids growing up. The psychologist mentioned - “adolescence is an education in being a member of society”. So much of what we do in the last 40 or so years is the opposite - there are less family dinners, there is less extended family nearby, teens don’t get to interact with a wide range of other people and other age groups, so never learn empathy and how to socialize. School can often not be an adequate substitute. They don’t sit around with aunts and uncles and grandparents, they aren’t forced to mix with a range of family children of multiple ages with our 1 or 2 child families, we don’t even mix with neighbours as much since air conditioning came along and everyone sits inside.

(This also explains why they are generally typical middle class white males. Most other ethnicities tend to have more lively family dynamic, and poorer families cannot afford a separate private space for a teenager or two to hang out all the time, let alone able to pay for them to sit around and do nothing.)