In recent years, America has seen more injuries and deaths from shootings at schools. Data from the K-12 School Shooting Database indicates that more than 100 people were killed in school shootings (including teachers and staff) since the beginning of 2020, more than any five-year stretch since 1970. The number of people killed or wounded since the beginning of 2020 is second only to the toll exacted from 2015 through 2019.
The country experiences a mass shooting nearly every day, and once every three days someone is shot on school property, according to data from the K-12 School Shooting Database. The large majority of these shootings don’t get coverage in national media outlets, and after a day or two, the media moves on to the next story, politicians put gun control legislation on the back burner and Americans get apathetic about gun control.
In the 191 active shooter incidents at K-12 schools from 1970 through Uvalde, there were at least 27 in which a shooter was subdued by students, staff or other civilians, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database.
Several researchers and consultants said they were skeptical of approaches that teach students and staff to run, hide or fight.
In the wake of a steady increase of school shootings in the US, schools are eager to find ways to better protect their students, even as overall incidents of violence have dropped in the last two decades. But the steps they are taking risk reinforcing an unhealthy culture of surveillance without actually preventing violence.
The US has experienced a higher number of school shootings at the start of this school year compared to any other year the incidents have been tracked. And an increasing number of the attacks, such as one this week at a Texas high school that left four people injured, are tied to fights between young people.
Since the beginning of September, the country has experienced 64 on-campus gun incidents, including 23 attributed to escalations of disputes, according to a K-12 school shooting database.
“What we’re seeing is a massive increase in gun violence on school campuses,” said David Riedman, principal investigator for the K-12 School Shooting Database.
As gunmen have stormed into classroom after classroom during the school day, killing dozens, a stunned country has mobilized to tighten security, prepare children with elaborate drills and pass new legislation. But a pattern of after-school shootings, which have occurred this academic year at a rate of about one a week, has largely gone unnoticed. Sometimes, after linebackers and officials duck for cover from gunshots during a football game, teams even return to the field and go back to playing.
The K-12 School Shooting Database, where researchers have compiled the country’s most comprehensive list of school shootings, shows that shootings at school events are a longstanding problem. But efforts to prevent them have been halting, piecemeal and, in some cases, virtually nonexistent.
The K-12 School Shootings Database is the most comprehensive and detailed of its kind. Researchers aimed to document all instances of gunfire at K-12 schools since 1970 and recorded a total of more than 1,300 cases. The database does not include shootings on college campuses.
While gun violence in schools has been an issue since at least the 1970s, it was only within the past few years that information about shootings was compiled in a database.
David Riedman, 37, of Titusville, a graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School and current PhD student at University of Central Florida, created the K-12 School Shooting Database following the Parkland shooting, where users can view information about every incident involving a gun at a school in the United States since 1970.
Peer-reviewed publications including journal articles, dissertations, theses, and government reports using the K-12 School Shooting Database.
A joint effort by the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, this annual report examines crime occurring in schools and colleges. This report presents data on crime at school from the perspectives of students, teachers, principals, and the general population from an array of sources—the National Crime Victimization Survey, the School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey, the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, the School Survey on Crime and Safety, the National Teacher and Principal Survey, EDFacts, and the Campus Safety and Security Survey. The report covers topics such as victimization, bullying, school conditions, fights, weapons, the presence of security staff at school, availability and student use of drugs and alcohol, student perceptions of personal safety at school, and criminal incidents at postsecondary institutions.
GAO found that shootings at K-12 schools most commonly resulted from disputes or grievances, for example, between students or staff, or between gangs, although the specific characteristics of school shootings over the past 10 years varied widely, according to GAO's analysis of the K-12 School Shooting Database. After disputes and grievances, accidental shootings were most common, followed closely by school-targeted shootings, such as those in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas.
This paper examines student exposure to school shootings in the United States since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School. We analyze shootings that occurred during school hours on a school day and resulted in a death. These shootings are likely to be uniformly reported and have a greater potential to cause harm – either directly or indirectly – to enrolled students. We measure the number and characteristics of children who were exposed to them, along with measures of the economic and social environment in which these shootings occur. We distinguish between indiscriminate shootings, suicides, personal attacks and crime-related shootings. The primary finding of our analysis is the importance of separating these types of shootings. Indiscriminate shootings and suicides more commonly affect white students, schools in more rural locations, and those in locations where incomes are higher. The opposite geographic and socioeconomic patterns are apparent for personal attacks and crime-related shootings. Analyses that ignore these distinctions or focus on a particular type may provide a misleading impression of the nature of school shootings. Policy discussions regarding approaches to reducing school shootings should take these distinctions into account.
After deadly school shootings at Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Parkland, many states mandated School Resource Officers or provided funding for districts to hire them. Lawmakers also considered arming teachers. Florida now requires a law enforcement officer or trained school guardian in every school.
By examining every recorded incident where one or more people was intentionally shot in a school building during the school day, or where a perpetrator came to school heavily armed with the intent of firing indiscriminately, we examine the association between the presence of an armed officer on scene and the severity of shootings in K-12 (kindergarten through 12th grade) schools.
We examined each identified case where more than one person was intentionally shot in a school building during a school day or a person arrived at school with the intent of firing indiscriminately (133 total cases) from 1980 to 2019 as reported by the public K-12 School Shooting Database. We focused on offender motive, an armed guard on scene during the shooting, the number and type of firearms the perpetrator used, and other factors. Following prior work on public mass shootings, the codebook was piloted on a random sample of cases. Each shooting was investigated twice by separate coders working independently. Data were merged and differences were resolved via consensus. The cases were then divided, independently checked, and sources triangulated.
We examine the impact of school shootings on health and human capital outcomes of exposed students as adults in their twenties and early thirties. Our data on school shooting incidents is from a database compiled by the K-12 School Shooting Database. The analytic dataset contains incidents from 1994-2005 in conjunction with Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System survey data from 2003-2012. We find substantial evidence that, relative to their unexposed peers, students exposed to school shootings experience declines in health and wellbeing, engage in more risky behaviors, and have worse education and labor market outcomes.
We examine how shootings at schools—an increasingly common form of gun violence in the United States—impact the educational and economic trajectories of students. Using linked schooling and labor market data in Texas from 1992 to 2018, we compare within-student and across-cohort changes in outcomes following a shooting to those experienced by students at matched control schools. We find that school shootings increase absenteeism and grade repetition; reduce high school graduation, college enrollment, and college completion; and reduce employment and earnings at ages 24–26. We further find school-level increases in the number of leadership staff and reductions in retention among teachers and teaching support staff in the years following a shooting. The adverse impacts of shootings span student characteristics, suggesting that the economic costs of school shootings are universal.
Schools are typically seen as safe community institutions that allow children to develop both educationally and socially. But shootings in schools such as the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, have cast doubt on the assumption that schools are safe places to learn. And although school shootings remain a very rare event, when they do occur, the public demands answers as to how or why such tragedies happen. In an attempt to satisfy this demand for immediate answers, the media often provides an explanation that the public readily accepts, such as a failing in mental health, gun control or a combination of both. However, research has found that these simplistic explanations, are not scientifically grounded. Given the rarity of school shootings, concrete and robust data on the causes or predictors of such violence is elusive. In addition, studies of shootings are limited to retrospective analysis and are typically centered on the characteristics of the shooter themselves. In this research dissertation, I seek to fill gaps in research regarding the environmental factors of schools and the communities where shootings have taken place, specifically in a rural setting.
School shootings are very prevalent within the United States. As of right now, there is no way to predict school shooting behaviors and traits. Since the Columbine shooting in 1999, psychologists have studied this shooting and others to build assessments to implement within schools. These assessments aim to predict various behaviors that are deemed threatening and use them to de-escalate situations before they occur. There are only seventeen states that have mandated threat assessment protocols on a legislative level. 1,257 school shootings were examined during a 30-year time frame, and 119 took place in states that have mandated threat assessment protocols. t-tests were run on the seventeen states, examining pre- and post-threat assessment implementation and the corresponding number of school shootings and causalities. F-tests were run when comparing states with threat assessment protocols and states without. Threat assessments are very new to the legislative world; 75% of the states with mandates did not mandate until 2018, following Parkland and Santa Fe. The author lays out four recommendations for the implications of this study. Recommendation #1: Every state needs to mandate threat assessment protocols. Recommendation #2: Every state needs to ensure these protocols are being followed precisely. Recommendation #3: The United States needs one cohesive threat assessment protocol to be implemented nationwide throughout schools. Recommendation #4: This study needs to be repeated in 10 years to allow ample time after these protocols have been implemented.
Over the last 10 years, the United States has witnessed a striking increase in school shootings (Riedman and O’Neil 2020). Most legislation addressing the issue has been focused on gun control with liberal states such as California passing stringent gun laws. However, it is important to acknowledge that the school shooting crisis is a multifaceted problem that will not be resolved by gun regulations alone. California should establish social-emotional learning programs in K-12 schools to help address the underlying issues that drive individuals to gun violence. These programs will provide students with the skills necessary to reduce aggressive behaviors as well as increase overall student well-being and academic achievement (Espelage et al. 2013). Along with gun control measures, California’s policymakers should establish social-emotional learning programs in K-12 schools to reduce the number of school shooting incidents. Effective implementation of such programs could transform California from the state with the highest rate of school shootings in the country to an exemplary model for other states to follow in tackling the school shooting crisis.
School shootings have received a substantial amount of media attention and there have been a variety of explanations proposed as to their cause. While completed school shootings have been evaluated extensively, little research has been done into school shootings that have been averted, and even fewer studies have evaluated between group differences between completed and averted school shootings. The purpose of the present study was to assess the differences in completed and averted school shootings primarily with respect to the age of the perpetrators, the number of perpetrators, and participation in leakage warning behaviors. Additional demographic variables were assessed with respect to characteristics of the perpetrators themselves, in addition variables related to the school setting. A completed case was classified as one that involved at least one injury and an averted case was classified as any case prevented prior to any injury. A total of 264 cases were evaluated in this study, 172 of which were classified as completed and 92 of which were averted. Results indicate that age, number of perpetrators, and participation in leakage warning behavior were all predictors of whether a school shooting attempt was completed. In a logistic regression, considering all of these variables relative contributions, only leakage warning behavior served as a significant predictor of group membership. This has been the first study to compare variables related to completed and averted school shootings. Future prevention efforts should focus on increasing knowledge around the signs of leakage warning behavior to increase detection and aversion of future attempts.
American Journal of Criminal Justice: Research on understanding school shootings has traditionally focused on the individual level factors surrounding several highly publicized mass shooting events such as those in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas. However, researchers have recently begun to examine characteristics among other types of shootings on K-12 school campuses, including non-mass and non-fatal shooting incidents. Correlates such the type of firearms used, the number of firearms, the age of the perpetrator, and school level, have been shown to differentially affect the severity of a school shooting incident. The current study provides a descriptive analysis of shooter, school, and incident level characteristics as they relate to the predicting casualties and fatalities in school shooting incidents from 1970–2020. Results suggest that school and incident characteristics are significantly related to school shooting severity. We discuss the importance of broadening the understanding of school shootings to include these other types of incidents. Data from this study come from the Naval Postgraduate School's Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) School Shooting Database (SSDB) (Riedman & O’Neill, 2018). The database is an ongoing, comprehensive list of instances when a firearm was brandished or fired on a K-12 school property and related properties (i.e. school buses or athletic fields) in the United States from January 5, 1970 to November 11, 2020. Information on perpetrator characteristics (e.g. demographics, number of perpetrators), school characteristics (e.g. school type), and gun characteristic (e.g. weapon type, number of weapons) was collected and aggregated for each incident in the database. The database aggregates information from a variety of publicly available primary sources, including peer-reviewed studies, government reports, mainstream media reports, advocacy groups, and private sources. In order to be included in the SSDB, cases were cross-referenced and filtered such that each case, even if appearing in more than one original source, is only included once.