Tuesday, August 4, 2020
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Orlando shooter wasn’t a well-behaved student

The New York Times has published several documents that provide information, mostly from school personnel, about the school life of Omar Mateen, who terrorized a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, shooting 49 people dead and injuring more than 50 others.

His elementary and middle school teachers wrote several times, on his report cards and in letters to parents, that Omar had difficulty focusing in class and was often a distraction to other students. They documented physical bullying in that Omar couldn’t keep his hands off of other students and psychological bullying in that he repeatedly talked about sex and violence.

Mr Mateen was born in 1986 in New York to Afghan parents; his father, Mateen Seddique, subsequently became an American citizen. They moved to Port St Lucie, Florida, when Omar was 5 years old. In one letter, a teacher at Southport Middle School challenges Mr Seddique’s opinion that Omar was struggling in school because the course material was too difficult to him, saying instead that the main source of Omar’s difficulties in academic performance was his “attitude and inability to show self-control in the classroom.”

Other documents describe physical fights in which Omar found himself and a limited ability to concentrate or follow instructions. A student study from his third-grade year (1994-95) reported that he was, even as a third grader, “constantly moving, verbally abusive, rude,” and “agressive.” He talked a lot about sex and violence, the study reported, including obscenities, and moved his “hands all over the place—on other children” and “in his mouth.”

The shooting on Sunday morning, June 12, at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was the deadliest mass shooting in US history. Omar Mateen, the gunman, killed 49 people and injured 53 others. Police shot him dead several hours after his terrorist act had begun.

As with school shootings, this nightclub massacre leaves me wondering what all the work we do to improve teaching and learning in our schools could possibly mean if the very children we send out into the world can be killed violently and in the blink of an eye.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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