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What happens when parents grow concerned about their sons talking about school shootings?

Close-Up Of Person Using Smart Phone Over Black Background
Close-Up Of Person Using Smart Phone Over Black Background

What do you do when you think your child might cause violence? For some parents, it’s an agonizing choice.

In 2019, Alania Vasquez reported her 14-year-old son to the police, because she was concerned he could become violent. She hoped that by telling authorities, she might be able to get help for her son.

Growing up, Vasquez’s son acted out and overreacted. Though her son attended counseling for years, Vasquez noticed that as he grew older, her son became obsessed with mass shooters, guns and violence. Vasquez was afraid that if she did nothing, her son would find someone to get a weapon for him and cause harm at school.

When Vasquez reported her son to the police, they searched her son’s room. They found a journal with detailed plans to kill Vasquez, her boyfriend, everyone at school and then himself. Vasquez wanted to help her son, but she didn’t realize he would be charged with a felony for planning an act of violence. The charge was later dropped after her son did community service and counseling.

Tawnell Hobbs, a senior special writer on the investigations team at The Wall Street Journal, spoke with parents like Vasquez. Vasquez’s son did get help, but it wasn’t as intensive as she’d hoped. Hobbs says it was hard for Vasquez to get the kind of care she knew her son really needed.

“It got worse and worse every year,” Hobbs says. “Her fear was that ‘Oh my God, I don’t want my child to be the next school shooter.’”

Now, Vasquez’s relationship with her son is still strained, years after she made the report. When Hobbs spoke with Vasquez’s son, he said he was still upset with his mother for reporting him and didn’t understand why the police needed to be involved.

But Vasquez says she doesn’t regret making that call.

“She really believes she did the right thing,” says Hobbs. “She believes that she could have averted a school shooting. And she just felt it was a matter of time before her son could have gotten a weapon somehow and acted out what he wrote in his journal.”


Samantha Raphelson produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Jeannette Muhammad adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.