School Stabbing Suspect Came From A ‘Good Family’ Which Doesn’t Explain Anything

Multiple Students Stabbed In PA High School AttackAlex Hribal, the 16-year-old boy who walked into Franklin Regional Senior High School carrying two common kitchen knives and slashed and stabbed 22 different people, has been charged with four counts of attempted homicide and 21 counts of aggravated assault. Thankfully, and seemingly against all odds, none of the victims have died, which is pretty much the only good thing you can say about what happened yesterday, except if you take notice of all the students and adults who tried to protect one another in the 20 minute attack. Authorities say that Alex will be prosecuted as an adult.

At least five students were critically wounded, including a boy whose liver was pierced by a knife thrust that missed his heart and aorta. Others also suffered deep abdominal puncture wounds. There are stories coming out of Pennsylvania today, about heroic kids who stayed with each other, holding each other and applying makeshift tourniquets made out of hoodies to the wounds of their friends. From CNN:

Student Mia Meixner recalled “a commotion behind me,” then saw one boy on top of a freshman, stabbing him.

“And the freshman boy stood up off the ground, and he lifted up his shirt and was gushing blood from his stomach all over,” Meixner told CNN. “It was very terrifying.”

Three students helped this victim, trying to take him to a nurse, according to Meixner. But he wasn’t the only one: Meixner spotted a girl with her arm “gushing blood” and herself offered to help.

A teacher then approached, as did a flood of people running down the hallway screaming, “Get out, run! He has a knife.”

It was then, Meixner recalled, “The teacher said, ‘I’ll take care of her. You can run.’”

This was one of many school staff — from cafeteria workers to aides to administrators — who made helping the wounded a priority even with the danger still on the loose.

Reading the accounts from these kids who said they never expected anything like this to happen to someone they know is heartbreaking. I cannot imagine the sort of fear and confusion that went on in the halls at Franklin Regional Senior High School yesterday, and how these kids and adults will even begin to heal and find hope after an event as horrific as this one. What I also find amazingly difficult to fathom is how the parents of Alex Hribal feel, especially after reading the accounts from neighbors and the family attorney. From The Daily Mail:

He’s a typical young kid. He’s a B+ student. The family is like Ozzie and Harriet. They have dinner together every night,’ said their attorney, Patrick Thomassey.

‘All the students liked him. He wasn’t a loner. He worked well in groups, and this happened. So there’s a reason for it — that’s what I’m saying. And we have to get to the bottom of that,’ the attorney said.

 

There are also various reports that Alex didn’t fit in well with other students, and according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette Alex made a threatening phone call to an upperclassman the night before saying he would “fuck him up.” Police are investigating this allegation, so I am not sure whether or not it is factual, but I do know that the suspect’s parents must be just as devastated as anyone else in this community this morning.

We may never know the reason why Alex did what he did yesterday. We may never know if it was due to bullying, or psychological problems, or from some sort of previous altercation with someone. But we do know that on one of the worst days that any school has ever gone though, teachers, students, security guards, school staff, cafeteria workers and the community did everything they could to help one another, to keep each other safe, to protect each other in the face of terrifying horror.

I hope this community and the family of Alex Hribal can find a way to heal.

(Image: getty)

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    • chickadee

      I think the title strikes the wrong note here, like somehow it’s worse when a kid from a ‘nice family’ commits a violent act….and that a similar act by a kid from a broken home or a disadvantaged background is less devastating? Any kid who does something like this has issues of some kind.

      • Kay_Sue

        ^^^^^Dittoing all of this so hard.

        There are no degrees of tragedy in situations like these, I think.

      • chickadee

        Absolutely not. And there’s also the cultural issue of establishing one kind of family as ‘good’ and others as ‘bad,’ ‘broken,’ ‘wrong,’ etc. Particularly since the definition of a good family ignores the inherent issues and problems that exist in all families. They look like what we have decided is ‘norman’s until something happens. I’m sure the Columbine shooters’ families looked good from the outside, too.

      • Kay_Sue

        Totally agree with this also.

      • TngldBlue

        Yeah I kinda raised my eyebrow at that.

      • Valerie

        Correct me if I am wrong Eve, but I took the title to mean that its worse because it came as a huge shock to his family that this happened. They thought they were doing it all right. And that makes it frightening for any parent making the effort to properly take care of their kids, have dinner with them, set rules and structure- its easy to write off a child from a troubled household doing something violent and disturbing. That way you can tell yourself that this is why it happened and that it’s not the path your child will head down. But when a child from the proverbial “good” family does something this violent and horrific its hard for the average “good” family to comprehend. I don’t think its that this crime is more devastating- just that it’s harder to understand where this kid was coming from if by all appearances, he had the right support system in place at home.

      • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

        It’s like that, but also how no one expected it, everyone keeps saying that he had no issues in school, he had this happy family etc. I think when tragedy like this strikes we all sort of expect people to say “he was an outcast” etc etc… I dunno, TBH I hate writing stories like these. I have no real POV, it all makes me horribly sad and I would much rather just NOT be the one writing about it, but I have to, it’s my job.

      • NYBondLady

        Yes. When a kid comes from a “bad family” or has other identifiable issues we can at least try to explain his motives or get into his mind, per se. I think it’s only human nature to try to understand why something like this happens, no one wants to believe that this is a random, unexplained thing…

      • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

        Yeah, I mean, bad seeds can come from anywhere, as we have seen, but the thing that strikes me is how random this seems for the time being

      • chickadee

        The title said it was more tragic, not more surprising.

      • chisai

        I thought it was more a play on the fact that every time something like this happens people say “he was a nice kid! He had a nice family! He seemed so ‘normal!’” and none of that really ever means anything…it’s so hard to get to the motive but rarely is it “the parents were terrible and taught him to be a killer.”

      • SarahJesness

        Eh, a lot of these types of stories stories, people are either saying “he was an outcast/longer/weirdo” or “he was a good kid and we didn’t see this coming”.

      • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

        There. I changed it just for you. haha. i’m sorry if I offended anyone by saying “good family

      • chickadee

        :). Thanks! It just seemed a little off, particularly for something written by you.

      • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

        Yeah I didn’t mean it in the way I think you think I did, that being said, my title sucked dicks so ty hahaha

      • tk88

        People find that more upsetting because it’s easy to look at a situation like this and say “MY kids are well adjusted and would never do anything like this. The kids at the school MY kids go to come from good families and this would never happen there.” If you admit it could happen to kids from “good families”, you are admitting it might happen to you. After all, who admits their kid doesn’t come from a good home or is capable of this? (Unless their kid has a severe mental health problem–in which case they should probably be getting services for that anyway.)

      • chickadee

        I know the title is changed, but what I objected to was a title that said that the fact that he was from a good family made it that much more tragic. That’s not ambiguous. It’s worse because the kid was from a good family. Nope.

      • Rachel Sea

        People like to think there is a formula that results in mass violence, because it makes them feel safer if they can think that a kid was obviously a ticking time bomb. As long as it ought to have been obvious, then it will be obvious again, and they can protect themselves and their loved ones by being on the lookout for kids who fit the image in their heads.

        When people don’t fit that image, it’s extra scary. No one wants to believe in monsters that look just like them and their kids.

      • chickadee

        Yeah, I realize that. But the original title, which has since been changed, said the the kid came from a good family, which made it all the more tragic. I understand the sentiment. What I objected to was the title’s implication.

      • SarahJesness

        Agreed. I hate that situations are treated as so much more tragic when a person involved is white and/or wealthy and/or from a “good family”.

    • TngldBlue

      When I went to school it was a safe place, the idea that we might be killed there never crossed our-or our parents-minds. It is just so damn sad.

      • Valerie

        Ugh, I know. I remember in elementary school if it were a warm day, they would prop open the main doors of the school to get a nice breeze coming through the hallways. Now my daughter’s school in a nice suburb has the whole camera/buzzer thing to even get inside. I understand the need for it and I’m glad they are so vigilant but it breaks my heart that my kids childhood will be nothing at all like mine in that regard.

    • scallywag

      Some students have begun telling Alex Hribal may have revolted as the result of being a victim of bullying, which may explain the indiscriminate running down the hallway and slashing as he went along…..

      http://scallywagandvagabond.com/2014/04/alex-hribal-go-stabbing-rampage-victim-bullying/

    • Alicia Kiner

      I hate that this happened, but I’m so damn happy that while there are several serious injuries, they are expecting every single one of these kids to survive. Those kids’ lives will never be the same, but they’re alive.

    • K.

      It would surprise me if bullying didn’t factor into this somehow. Most happy well-adjusted kids don’t go on stabbing-sprees out of nowhere.

      • Zettai

        I don’t think there is such a thing as a happy well-adjusted kid. I think you either hide it well or you don’t. Teenage years are hard.

      • http://nessyhart.wordpress.com/ pixie

        I’d consider myself as a teen to be happy and well-adjusted. Teenage years weren’t super easy, but overall I was a happy kid.

      • K.

        I mean, you can see what I wrote below, but I still think like most adults, most kids are okay. “Happy and well-adjusted” sounds weird for talking about moody teens, but in general, most that I work with are fine (granted, they are a specific socioeconomic set–mostly middle to high income families). They have their good days and their bad days, but the majority are functional and happy–they’ve got their friends, good parents (most), college plans, sports, arts, newspaper, yearbook, etc. etc.

      • Rachel Sea

        It doesn’t have to be about bullying. A lot of guys who commit mass violence are just entitled shits who experience a big disappointment, and react by punishing the world.

    • JLH1986

      Every time I read/hear about situations like this all I can think is “why?” and question what the hell is going on that at least 2-3 times a year a kid thinks that this is how to resolve issues. Of course it happens with adults too, it’s happened twice at Ft. Hood alone. I was in HS when Columbine happened and middle school when the attacks at Pearl HS and Ryle HS happened. Are there cases of attacks like this before then and there wasn’t as much media scrutiny? Or has something truly changed. I’m rarely torn about things but the media in these situations…I think knowing victims helps people to internalize that they weren’t just strangers and I think asking questions of the attacker and learning more about them can help us as a society down the line, but I also feel like, even with the most responsible of journalists who take every care not to sensationalize there is some glorification. Or at least that’s how these kids are seeing it, even if the journalist is very matter of fact, these kids are seeing their name. Is that the draw? I just don’t know. But my heart breaks every time I see one of these situations.

      • K.

        My take is yes and no.

        I don’t think it’s as simple as “they want attention,” which makes the morality sound that much more black and white; I think it’s something more along the lines of “I am in pain and I want people to notice.”

        I work with a lot of teens, and my take on it is that in general, happy well-adjusted kids don’t hurt others and they don’t hurt themselves. When you factor in the number of teens who commit or attempt suicide and the number of teens who perform other acts of self-destruction (cutting, disordered eating, binge drinking, drug addiction), there are a lot of kids out there who are in some kind of pain. The other factor in this is that most teenagers, like big toddlers, have disproportionate and inappropriate responses to emotional stress. I mean, we would understand and be sympathetic if a girl killed herself after being bullied, but I think most of us would agree that ending your life–regardless of the precipitating events–is an extreme act. I had a friend who wasn’t bullied, but just didn’t make friends easily. No one bothered him, but he was lonely. And he ended up killing himself because of loneliness. It’s a painful sentence to write; at the same time, it’s such a crazy thing to do–kill yourself at the age of 18, with your whole life ahead of you and a college scholarship…because you didn’t have too many friends in HS? The vast majority of teens will never take things out on some other kids like Hribal or Columbine; most of them will (sadly) enact violence upon themselves. And this is true of any other mental illness in adults, including sociopathy.

        Some do, though, and I wouldn’t say that those who do are necessarily crazy; I think that they’re simply teenagers in a lot of pain, who aren’t equipped to understand how to handle that pain, and instead of turning things inwards, they sometimes turn them outwards–most of the time, it’s a combination of the two, as most school shootings end with the suicide of the shooters. Yes, mental illness could be involved, but I don’t think in any truly diagnosable way–ie, maybe therapists speculate after the fact that this kid had depression and that one may have had early schizophrenia, but there’s significance in the fact that the shooters have rarely been to therapist because no one thought they needed it. Most of them are, up until the point of violence, “normal kids.”

        So yeah–it probably is a call for attention, but not because the kids want to be in the newspapers or be like Adam Lanza or whatever. THEY may this sort of bravado claim that because it saves face from the reality, which is that these acts come from a place of weakness: they can’t handle their pain and they want others to know that.

    • Tinyfaeri

      I’m thinking “psychological problems” is a pretty safe bet either way.

    • keelhaulrose

      Pardon me if I’m going to take any info offered by a defense attorney with a grain of salt. His job is to make this as good an outcome for his client and the boy’s family as it’s going to get in a situation like this. Right now I think his focus is portraying a child like innocence do he can make a motion to move it to juvenile court.

    • val97

      My kid was sent home with a note for playing Hunger Games and pretending to shoot a bow and arrow at recess. Frankly, I was surprised they didn’t suspend him since that seems to be the norm these days. But last night we talked about this stabbing incident (my high schooler brought it up) and I realized nobody had ever really talked to them about mental illness or psychological problems and warning signs in teens and tweens. These are the things that are risk factors, not a kid playing make-believe on a playground.

    • val97

      My kid was sent home with a note for playing Hunger Games and pretending to shoot a bow and arrow at recess. Frankly, I was surprised they didn’t suspend him since that seems to be the norm these days. But last night we talked about this stabbing incident (my high schooler brought it up) and I realized nobody had ever really talked to them about mental illness or psychological problems and warning signs in teens and tweens. These are the things that are risk factors, not a kid playing make-believe on a playground.

      • Mel

        Wow, you just tragedy-jacked a story about children who were attacked and are suffering, to complain about your kid being sent home with a note? *smh* Not everything about you and how you feel you were wronged. A note is not an assault, you and your kid are not victims of anything.

      • val97

        That’s not at all what I meant by that comment. It’s just an example that I could quickly point to since it just happened of how the schools are focusing on the wrong things with their zero tolerance policies.

      • Mel

        I believe that it’s “not what you meant” but it’s still what you did. This seems like an inappropriate place to vent about your kid being called out and you trying to be the arbiter of the “wrong things” are. I’m not a huge fan of zero-tolerance policies either. We agree there. But your kid wasn’t punished or suspended or expelled. A note was sent home. I’m not looking to pick a fight with you here. I just find it shameful when people use a tragedy to vent about perceived personal slights. Your post would make a great example on STFU Parents.

      • AP

        She is providing an example of how schools don’t understand the difference between childish play and real warning signs of violence. That’s relevant to the story, because it shows that schools are misreading the early warning signs for potential violence or mental illness.

      • val97

        This was not a personal slight. I never felt I was “wronged” as you put it. It wasn’t relevant, but I sent the teacher an email thanking her for handling the incident that way.
        I could have used one of the many viral stories of seemingly benign behavior that resulted in punishment. I chose to use a personal story as an example. I like reading about other people’s experiences, which is why I’m on a parenting blog in the first place. Sorry if you were offended.

      • SarahJesness

        Eh, I have to side with val97 here. It IS a good point: when schools are trying to prevent things like violence and bullying, they often focus on the wrong things.

    • Ptownsteveschick

      Not saying this is the case here, because obviously we don’t know, but there are many many mental illnesses that begin to manifest in the late teens. Not all people with mental illness are angsty loners. Some are very very good at pretending too look normal and well adjusted. When I was at my worst, it was my main priority and until my utter break down I had a lot of people fooled. One of my better friends in high school was charismatic, fun, friendly and seemed perfect until he tried to run his car off a cliff. Good families aren’t an inoculation, mental illness can happen to anyone. I am just so glad he didn’t kill anyone.

      • http://nessyhart.wordpress.com/ pixie

        I was thinking this, too. Our society seems to have this stereotype that mental illness only happens in “bad families” and are all angsty loners, like you said. I have no idea if this was a case of finally breaking down due to some mental illness or just what. I used to babysit a girl who hanged herself last year and everything seemed to be sunshine and rainbows in her life (her parents did divorce shortly before, but she was outgoing, popular, very pretty, well-liked, and seemed very happy and carefree all the time). It’s very easy to miss mental illness because a lot of people try to hide it and do so successfully.

      • SarahJesness

        Yep. People like to stereotype these kinds of people as being outright crazy lunatics who show sooo many obvious “warning signs” and what have you, and motivations are always clear, and whatever. It makes them feel safer and better. If they convince themselves that everyone should’ve seen the incident coming (sometimes it’s true, sometimes not) then they can say “I don’t need to worry about it because my kid looks fine”.

    • AP

      The fact that he came from a “good family” and yet “didn’t get along with the other students” makes perfect sense to me, especially if bullying is suspected to be involved.

      Anecdotally, a lot of the kids I knew who were bullied (including relatives,) whose parents were up in the principal’s office weekly demanding that the school protect their kids, came from “good families.” But because their parents were good people who responded to the situation rationally, by asking the school to help by following the set procedures, instead of threatening lawsuits and going to the school board president’s house or the media behind the principal’s back, the schools did nothing; because they were a good family, the schools weren’t legally obligated to provide any interventions that are normally allocated to kids with special needs or from troubled circumstances. And in a lot of those situations, the bullies’ families fell into the irrational, threatening, troubled family background that required the schools handle them as carefully as dynamite, so the schools were extra-motivated to protect the bully at the expense of the victim.

      It’s very easy for a school bureaucracy to run roughshod over “good families” and refuse to handle a bad situation until the poor kid has been so thoroughly abused at school, they crack.

      • Nire

        Forgive me if I am jumping to the wrong conclusion, but are you suggesting that this attack was somehow justifiable because he may have been bullied?

      • AP

        No, I’m saying that schools take advantage of “good” victims and allow them to be abused until they psychologically crack. Persistent, unchecked abuse is mentally destructive.

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