Psychologist speaks on youth violence |

Psychologist speaks on youth violence

by F.T. Norton
Appeal Staff Writer
Eric Johnson, director of the Oregon Forensic Institute, talks to a group of school and law enforcement officials about youth violence, Tuesday afternoon at the Piñon Plaza. Cathleen Allison/ Nevada Appeal

A forensic psychologist who specializes in assessing youth violence in schools was in Carson City on Tuesday, ironically the same day as a student shot two classmates in Reno.

Dr. Eric M. Johnson, founder of the Oregon Forensic Institute, was invited to speak by the Nevada Association of School Psychologists.

Johnson’s program offers tools for school, mental health, juvenile justice and law enforcement professionals to intervene with at-risk youth through a variety of assessment activities designed to determine if the student is really dangerous and help officials develop an intervention plan.

He said school shootings are only a small subset of violence in schools.

More common, he said, is bullying and assault.

“There are kids who are either emotionally or behaviorally disturbed who pose a danger to others in the school. The shooting is an extreme example. A more likely scenario are kids engaged in simple assault, kids who are hitting and assaulting each other, a kid who’s got anger-management problems and threatens more serious harm,” he said.

In a school district the size of Carson City’s, Johnson said, a violence assessment is warranted only once or twice a year.

But even then, a student who resorts to gun violence, is not the type who is typically assessed, he said.

“Shootings generally occur because of a beef or a grudge with somebody and this is a dramatic sort of permanent solution to a temporary problem,” he said. “Most kids don’t tell about bullying because that often makes the situation worse.”

Though Johnson was not familiar with what led to Tuesday’s Pine Middle School shooting in which a 13-year-old boy was shot in the arm in front of more than a dozen students and teachers, he said the scenario is telling.

“The kids who chose to do this at school are typically looking for a stage to act out their drama. They are wanting people to know they are aggrieved and that they are capable of harm,” he said. “Doing this in the most public of forums is a very blatant attempt to get revenge as opposed to trying to get away with something.”

— Contact reporter F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.µ