School Violence: Reported School Shootings and Making Schools Safer

By Duplechain, Rosalind; Morris, Robert | Education, Winter 2014 | Go to article overview

School Violence: Reported School Shootings and Making Schools Safer


Duplechain, Rosalind, Morris, Robert, Education


School shootings are most commonly committed by either a student who goes to the school or by an intruder from off campus who has a connection to someone within a particular school. From 1760 until 2010, in the United States alone, there have been more than 310 documented shootings on school property. These researchers have gathered the following historic data about these schools shootings:

Table 1. Reported School Shootings in U.S. *

Period of Time                   Total Number of
                                 School Shootings

1760-1900 (140 year period)            25
1900-1930 (30 year period)             39
1930-1960 (30 year period)             45
1960-1990 (30 year period)             53
1990-2014 (24 year period) **         190

* These data were collected from various newspaper
reports.

** Last count was October 24,2014.

It is worth noting that America has witnessed four major school shootings in recent years--one at a university and three at K-12 schools (public and private). In 1999, Columbine High School was number 204 out of these 300 plus incidents. In 2006, the Amish schoolhouse was number 236. In 2007, Virginia Tech was number 242. In 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School was number 300.

Since 2010, there have been at least 80 more school shootings. That's an average of 20 school shootings per year from 2010 to 2014. The number of deaths in these additional school shootings is 86. Twenty-seven deaths were reported for Newton, CT alone. These figures are staggering even though violent deaths at our schools account for less than 1% of the homicides and suicides among children ages 5 to 18 in the United States.

These types of tragedies touch the hearts of every American and it is time to better understand the particulars of the most horrible of forms of school violence, school shootings.

Behaviors and Risk Factors of School Shooters

There are several behaviors--risk factors--of school shooters. All school personnel should be aware of these risk factors as many of them are understandable and easy to identify.

Bullying. Of course bullying and school shootings are directly linked to each other. Research by Crawford in 2001 reported that of the 37 school shootings he identified and studied, 75% of the school shooters felt bullied, threatened, or were attacked or injured by others. Several of the shooters he reported on said they experienced long-term bullying and harassment from their peers. J. Klein's 2007 description of today's school culture and why school shootings take place is noteworthy:

In every school shooting, boys targeted girls who rejected them, boys who called them "gay" or otherwise belittled them and other student's at the top of the school's hierarchy--white, wealthy, and athletic--and then shot down other students in the effort to reinstate their injured masculinity. In high schools as well as colleges, popular kids tend to be wealthier and the boys at the top of the school caste are often perceived as "jocks". Those that do not fit into these categories are often teased, or seen as relatively unimportant or even invisible. The boys who killed generally came from less wealthy backgrounds than those they targeted and almost all of them specifically aimed at those perceived as wealthy and popular; the "jocks and preps" in the school who were also the ones who bullied them (Klein, 2007).

School personnel too often accept that children get teased and bullied every day, because teachers, parents, students, and other adults have grown up thinking that bullying is a normal part of school life. It has too easily become an accepted part of today's school culture.

Many people believe that school shooters are deranged individuals when actually they are retaliating against the pain they have felt on a daily basis. Those who solely blame mental illnesses miss the real concerns and effect of bullying. These individuals are severely troubled (Klein, 2007). …

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