ON YOUR SIDE: Was Sparks school shooter inspired by anti-bullying movie?

Reported by: Joe Hart
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Updated: 12/01/2013 8:06 pm
SPARKS, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) - The parents of the Sparks Middle School shooter, Jose Reyes, say they were shocked to learn their son had committed such a horrible crime. But they also say their son was depressed and tired of being teased at school.

In our On Your Side Report we look at whether the district's own anti-bullying curriculum, including a movie shown to students, may have played a role in this tragedy.  

One of the scenes from the movie is a real life incident that played out showing a young girl who'd been bullied pulling out a gun on the school bus and threatening other students who'd been bullying her.

The scene is dramatic and provocative.  It is shown as an example of what not to do.  But experts say the images are powerful nonetheless, and may send a mixed message.

"She felt this was a way to gain power," said local therapist Cornelius Sheehan Jr. about the movie.     Sheehan is a pyschotherapist and licensed clinical social worker who cautioned against making a direct link between the movie and the shootings at Sparks Middle School because he says there could be a number of factors involved.  But , he also says: 

"Maybe somebody was on the verge of something and this might have been suggestive enough to give them an idea."

Reno attorney Ken Mckenna insists there has to be a connection between the movie that was shown to students and the shootings.
Mckenna is not involved in the case.  We turned to him as a neutral observer and legal expert.

"Seeing this scene (in the movie) there is no doubt in my mind that what occurred in this case is a direct causal link to that scene," Mckenna said.

The "Bully" movie was shown to kids at Sparks Middle School on the Friday before fall break.  The shootings happened the next day school was back in session, the Monday morning after fall break, which was October 21st.  The timing, and the content of the movie have many wondering if that's what pushed Jose Reyes to to take matters into his own hands.

News 4 asked parent Tabitha Newton, the parent of a Sparks Middle School student,  if she's worried about the message the movie sends.  

"Oh yeah," she told us.

And attorney Mckenna says you simply can't ignore the connection between the movie and the shootings.

"You have no prior gun activity, you have this being shown, and then the very next school day the gun being brought.  It doesn't get much clearer than that in terms of causal effect," Mckenna said.

News 4 asked the school district about the movie and we were first told by a district spokeswoman they weren't familiar with it.  Even though Sparks Middle School was among those which sent home an opt-out form, asking parents to sign it only if they did not want their children to see the movie "Bully" with its PG-13 rating.

Then, at a news conference at Sparks Middle School two days later, where school officials showed off memorials students and parents had created for slain teacher Michael Landsberry, News 4 was instructed by the school district not to ask about the movie.   But we did ask because we feel it's an important question.

"Washoe County has comprehensive bullying prevention and intervention initiatives that we participate in.  So I don't see how that's related to this conference," said Katherine Loudon, coordinator of guidance counseling services for the Washoe County School District:

But we told her some parents have concerns about the movie "Bully" being shown to junior high students.

She responded:  "As you're aware the case is under investigation.   Sparks Police have asked us not to comment."

Reno therapist Cornelius Sheehan told us that having a discussion after showing a movie like "Bully"  is extremly important for kids this age.  But again we don't know if those discussions occurred, because the school district won't say.   We only know from other students that the movie was shown during 6th period on the afternoon before school was let out for fall break.

"Would a child have somebody to talk to if this stirred something up in them that was frightening ?"   Sheehan asked.

Sparks Police tell News 4 after we first reported the movie had been shown to students, they decided to include it as part of their ongoing investigation  but police won't say any more than that.

And while me may never know why Jose Reyes decided to take a gun to school that day in October, opening fire on a teacher and his fellow students,
parents we spoke with say they have real concerns about the message this movie sends to kids and why schools are showing it.

"I don't think it's appropriate because because children are so easily influenced at this age group," said Veronica Rudd, the parent of two students at Sparks Middle School.

And who knows that better than the students themselves ?

Amaya Newton, who attends Sparks Middle School and also saw the movie that day, told us it seems to send the wrong message to kids.

"That perhaps it's better to pull out a gun than to go tell a teacher," she said.

Jose Reyes' parents tell News 4 their son did not mention the movie.  But they confirm their son was teased at school, to the point they felt he was depressed and they tell us they even sent him to a counselor.

Sparks police continue to investigate all of the details surrounding the shooting.  And again the movie "Bully" is part of what they're looking at.

But there's no timetable on how long that investigation will take. 
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Here are the most recent story comments.View All

roseanya - 11/19/2013 2:42 PM
0 Votes
Illegal student with illegal parents are NOT ALLOWED TO have guns. ENFORCE our laws before total anarchy takes over.

retired51 - 11/12/2013 3:31 PM
1 Vote
Sue this stinking school district!!
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