Kids that kill: A WAFF 48 News special report

MADISON, AL (WAFF) - There's never a shortage of violent crime that happens across the country. But lately, the number of teenagers that are involved in these heinous acts is growing.

Demetrick Young beat and killed a teacher when he was 15. James Williams shot and killed a gas station attendant when he was 17. 14-year-old Hammad Memmon is facing capital murder charges for gunning down classmate Todd Brown at Discovery Middle School in Madison.

What caused these kids to kill? Counselor, Zane Slocumb, said every case is different and while many may be quick to blame environment like a broken home or poverty, these three kids could not be any more different.

One is from rural north Alabama, one from the city, and Memmon, the son of a doctor, is from Madison.

"This was a case that as far as most people knew, this young man had no warning signs," said Slocumb. "Even some of the peers that were present reported the expression on his face was just blank."

Slocumb said many times a sense of entitlement or revenge is the common thread linking killer kids together.

"When you have been wronged, it's not only your right, but your obligation to quote, 'make it right,' and that means engage in some premeditated act," said Slocumb.

According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 83 percent of victims in school-related violent acts are male. A staggering 96 percent of offenders are also male.

"Particularly with males, society reinforces the idea that you are to be the protector, the defender," said Slocumb. "That's the stereotype for most males and that gets reinforced."

In most cases there are warning signs. Psychologists say troubled teens can show signs of depression. They tend to isolate themselves from family or friends and often pick fights when they do interact with people.

Chronic lying, substance abuse and even bullying can also be signs of serious problems. You should also keep an eye on your child's grades. Experts say the slightest change can be a warning sign and surprisingly, it could even be an improvement in academics.

These are warning signs Madison City Schools' Safety Director, Dennis James, said teachers and staff are now well aware of.

"We feel that the best way to keep our students safe is to open up as many lines of communication as we possibly can. You know, sometimes there's a code or culture that you don't tell when you hear something because you don't want to get in trouble," said James. "Those are the things we need to hear about so that we can prevent small problems from ballooning into something worse."

James said since the shooting at Discovery, several new safety measures have been put in place throughout the district. There are now more school resource officers on school campuses, more security cameras, visitor check-in systems and a new program called 'text to protect.'

In less than a year, hundreds of calls and texts have poured in to the Madison Police Department. School officials are doing what they can to prevent another tragedy.

But what can you do to make sure your kids stay safe and out of trouble? Slocumb said it's as simple as a sit down.

"As parents, as adults, we've got to be involved," he said. "Really helping a child to understand what it means to be responsible for your own behavior, to be accountable for your own behavior; that will make a difference."

But how do you talk to your children if they're not willing to open up?

Slocumb said you know your kids the best, so try to work it into a conversation by bringing up something that interests them first. And he said, don't forget to ask questions.

Even if they don't engage in that conversation, remember it doesn't mean they're not listening.

And if that doesn't work, Slocumb said seek the help of a professional. As tough as that may be, it is nowhere near as tough as dealing with the aftermath of violence.

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