In Brazil, a Rush to Understand the Suzano School Massacre

Brazilian Elementary School Kids Daily Life: Always the same routine. Going hungry for at least two hours before the only morning break. As the school bell rings for the start of a wild run that ends in squeezing before a counter with hundreds of other screaming kids, in a competition to be the first one to buy a hot dog in the school’s canteen. Then, starving for two more hours until midday.

In the classroom, a woman who is the only teacher for almost all disciplines spent half of the morning complaining about men and the macho culture in Brazil, students will probably have to write an essay about that as part of the writing lesson.

Girls are usually given better grades than boys, 99% of school teachers are women. The number one kind of bullying is laughing about young boys lack of muscles. Almost no adult male role model.

At noon classes end. Most students are in school only in the morning, or only in the afternoon. Most middle-class kids are taken home on small buses, inside which dozens of kids perform a collective shouting that resembles the sound of voices in a panic on a shark attack.

In Brazil, the fastest growing phenomenon in families is the “latchkey child”. Most young kids go home after morning school and spend the afternoon playing video games by themselves. Food? They nuke frozen things at will or boil noodles. Almost no parental attention, neither from mom or from dad.

The growing “female empowerment” and the aggressive competition for jobs drives parents out of homes for more than 16 hours a day and middle-class kids have to find their ways by themselves.

In poorer communities, there is more “solidarity”, kids are simply all on the streets, together, watched by an older sibling who already holds a gun and works for drug dealers. No wonder the high levels of illiteracy and poor math skills are epidemic in the country among young students.

Shootings in Brazilian middle-class schools, like the recent one in Suzano, share an element with North American ones, they are almost all latchkey kids who spend hours playing computer games that imitate wars and the practice of crimes like murder, robbery, and others.

There is one difference from kids in the USA: the guns used in the shootings in Brazil are bought from the same suppliers that sell guns to drug dealers and other criminals, it means, illegal guns.

Now Brazilian politicians are in a quarrel about who or what is the cause for the Suzano shooting, which all of them consider “alien” to the Brazilian peaceful culture.

Some blame the presence of guns, others point at the lack of morality and religion, but none of them remembers to focus on the absence of affection and attention from parents, the most common ground for many kids in Brazil and elsewhere.

Luciano Medina Martins is a Brazilian journalist who writes about freedom of speech, democratic practices, public companies’ transparency, and the sovereign wealth funds. Lately, he has been researching social media and public opinion. He keeps a blog at this address:


  • Show Comments (1)

  • Bill Miller

    April 20, 1999.

    I recall a co-worker talking about this school shooting happening that she saw on the news at lunch time. This was only the first unfortunately, of many more mass shootings in our country.

    I wasn’t right for several months after this, a kind of auto-pilot numbness took over my daily life and routine. I had two daughters who were in elementary school at the time. My wife called to tell me their school was on lock down. No one in or our without proper identification. At the time we lived less than 10 minutes from Columbine High School.

    What unfolded in the months after, was just surreal. It was as though it wasn’t happening in “my” community, but there it was. I cried, I was angry, my kids were very young and didn’t fully grasp at the time the seriousness of this event, (although they came to later). We struggled to tell our children how 12 high school kids went to school that morning and never came home.

    The division came first, right/left, gun control, no gun control, victims/oppressors. It became a very ugly debate on intolerance, bullying, political and religious ideologies. It was a pre-cursor to what would become a very familiar scenario here in America.

    When children are isolated, particularly in their formative years by their peers, they tend to become resentful and “act out” as was the case at Columbine. Many commit suicide as they perceive that as “the only way out”.

    I do believe socioeconomics can play a role in the mindset of youth. I also think the problem goes much deeper than that. The two students who gunned down their classmates were from an upper middle class household, without wants most likely, other than to be accepted. They were also bullied as students at the school and a majority of their rage of terror was aimed at those who they perceived as the bullies.

    I think one of the most shocking revelations to come out of the investigation was that both sets of parents were completely clueless what their own children were up to. They were making bombs out of propane tanks and placed several around the school in the hopes of blowing them up and inflicting the greatest amount of casualties.

    There also seems to be a common thread with many of America’s mass shootings, Anti-Depressants.

    Many of these shooters were prescribed and taking some form of anti-depressant. I’m not a doctor or pharmacist so I can’t accurately speak as to the effect this has on a persons mental state. Where the problem lies however, is that people with obvious mental issues were and still are able to get military grade weaponry with relative ease.

    This is where the gun control debate seems to have hit a wall in this country. Our “president” recently rescinded legislation that was in place to at least attempt to keep weapons out of the hands with a past or present history of mental illness. The only thing that would have raised a red flag regarding the mentally ill was removed as “too restrictive to law abiding gun owners.”

    As a gun owner myself, I would applaud legislation that might keep a mentally troubled person from getting a gun of any type. The NRA which is one of the strongest firearm lobbies in the world however, disagree and this is where the “debate” is right now. The fact is, this organization gives MILLIONS to the politicians to keep the flow of guns rolling. They have tried to sign me up many times but I no longer seem them as a “gun rights” group, but as a politic ideology with little to no moral compass. If anything I seem them as the poster children for division.

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