Iuzzini Comments on Teen’s Suicide – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Iuzzini Comments on Teen’s Suicide

Jonathan Iuzzini, assistant professor of psychology at HWS, was interviewed by the Finger Lakes Times for a story about the suicide of Canandaigua Academy student Thomas Kane, who killed himself but left behind indicators that he may have considered doing much more harm first.

“I think the fact that he chose not to use those materials is of particular importance,” the article quotes Iuzzini. “Ultimately, this is a suicide, and I don’t think that we should be analyzing it in exactly the same way we should [analyze] a school shooting where other people are targeted.”

Looking at notes left behind by Kane in which he says he was not bullied, the article notes Iuzzini raises the possibility that the student “may have felt a sense of rejection from the school as a whole. Even if the hatred came from a single person there, he said, it may have been transferred to a larger group of people at the school.”

The article goes on to discuss warning signs and how adults should react to them. The complete text follows.


Finger Lakes Times
Expert: Note student’s ultimate choice

HWS professor says although teen made plans to harm others, it was really more about him
Amanda Folts • May 14, 2009

The suicide of a Canandaigua Academy student wasn’t like other school shootings. Jonathan Iuzzini, a school violence expert and social psychology professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, said that’s because Thomas Kane chose not to hurt others the day he shot himself in a school bathroom, leaving ammunition and homemade explosives in his locker.

“I think the fact that he chose not to use those materials is of particular importance,” Iuzzini said. “Ultimately, this is a suicide, and I don’t think that we should be analyzing it in exactly the same way we should [analyze] a school shooting where other people are targeted.”

Iuzzini said he cannot know what went through Kane’s mind to stop him from hurting others. But however much Kane thought his plan through, it was ultimately more about him than anyone else, Iuzzini said.

And that’s the difference, he said: Kane had the means to carry out an attack and chose not to. Iuzzini said Kane’s journals, in which he wrote about his growing hatred for everyone at school, shed light on his decision to kill himself there.

Although Kane wrote that he was not bullied, Iuzzini said he may have felt a sense of rejection from the school as a whole. Even if the hatred came from a single person there, he said, it may have been transferred to a larger group of people at the school.

Iuzzini said people know about the stress adolescents face in high school and middle school and that there are well-trained staff who know how to work with students who may be dealing with problems.

“I think we have to continue to take very seriously warnings we get about students from their peers, and I don’t think that we should ignore any warning,” he said.

But Iuzzini said people shouldn’t make the mistake of profiling students or be on the lookout for those who act differently. Though that’s the kneejerk reaction, he said, it can be a dangerous direction to go in. Iuzzini said schools need to make an organized effort to work with teachers, parents and students to look at situations and to take concerns from students’ peers seriously.

“When we’re getting warnings or when students are coming with concerns, [that] needs to be top priority,” he said.