Guns at School: After 41 Deaths & 74 Injuries in 2018, What We’ve Learned From Tracking Six Months of School Shootings
The 74 is tracking gun-related injuries and deaths at schools throughout 2018. Bookmark this page for the latest reports, and see below for an interactive map of incidents involving the discharging of a firearm that causes a wound or fatality on school property.
It was less than one month into 2018 when a spate of firearm incidents in schools — including a January shooting in Kentucky that killed two people and injured 18 others — prompted news stories highlighting the prevalence of gun violence on American campuses. Since then, mass school shootings in Florida and Texas have revived a heated debate about gun laws and strategies to keep students safe.
In order to help contextualize the prevalence of gun violence in schools, The 74 built a map to track firearm incidents at K-12 schools and universities that result in injury or death. Six months into 2018, the map offers a window into the prevalence of firearm incidents in education institutions, which have resulted in at least 41 deaths and 74 injuries. Beyond mass shootings, that tally includes a shooting after a fight broke out at a university party, a teacher who accidentally fired a gun during a public safety class, and four student suicides.
But across incidents of varying scale and motive, they share several similarities. In all fatal incidents, the identified suspect is male. That includes suspects in mass school shootings, a trend that corresponds with mass shooters outside an educational setting.
And in 9 of 13 campus firearm incidents resulting in a fatality at this point in 2018, the suspected shooter was identified as a student at the institution where the violence unfolded. Often, gunmen who aren’t students have close connections to the campuses. In Parkland, Florida, the suspected shooter had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School before attacking the campus. After a Winston-Salem State University football player was killed after a shooting that reportedly unfolded during a party on the Wake Forest University campus, the suspect was identified as a former Winston-Salem State University student.
This map includes school shootings that took place on campus where a person was injured or killed. Incidents resulting in injury are labeled blue, while incidents resulting in death are labeled red. The most recent incident is indicated with a larger icon. Click on the icons to see details about each incident.
Nadine Connell, an associate professor of criminology and director of the Center for Crime and Justice Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, said the fact that students often carry out campus shootings isn’t surprising.
“Schools are not very often attacked by strangers, just like very few places are attacked by strangers,” she said in an email. “The same could be said for domestic violence — people don’t attack strangers’ families — they attack their own.”
Recognizing a shooting suspect’s relationship to a school is important context, said Connell, who is currently building a database of all school shootings in the U.S. since 1990. That database, she hopes, will help law enforcement and school leaders better understand the causes of school violence and how to prevent future attacks.
While news reports highlight the threat of an outsider barging into a school to commit violence, she noted that such scenarios are less common. The suspect in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, is a clear exception. Although he previously attended the school, he wasn’t supposed to be there.
“The rhetoric seems to be, ‘Someone can burst into our schools at any time and gun everyone down,’ ” Connell said. “It’s not the right rhetoric, because it makes as much sense as someone storming into your house — the risk is so incredibly low.”
The incident in Parkland, which claimed the lives of 17 people and injured 17 others, is likely to perpetuate the notion that outsiders represent a disproportionate threat, she said. In a recent interview with the South Florida Sun Sentinel, a retired Secret Service agent said he warned administrators — two months before the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — about vulnerability to an outside threat.
Despite concern around the prevalence of on-campus shootings, Connell was quick to point out that they’re statistically infrequent. “School is still the safest place for children,” she said. During the 2014-15 school year, the U.S. experienced 1,168 homicides of youth aged 5 to 18, of which 20 occurred at school, according to a recent National Center for Education Statistics report on school crime and safety. Over the past two decades, the report noted, fewer than 3 percent of youth homicides, and fewer than 1 percent of youth suicides, occurred at school.
The Education Department’s most recent Civil Rights Data Collection, which the department released in April and presents information from the 2015-16 school year, required for the first time that schools report details about “violent and serious crimes.” That year, schools reported nearly 1.1 million incidents of serious offenses, 94 percent of which were physical attacks or fights, or threats of physical attacks, without a weapon. Meanwhile, 235 schools reported a shooting on campus, including incidents where nobody was hurt. That’s about one-fifth of 1 percent of schools.
Among public K-12 schools that have experienced gunfire resulting in injury or death this year, one campus — Lincoln High School in Philadelphia — reported a firearm-related incident in the 2015-16 school year.
Mass school shootings — which are typically at the forefront of heated policy debates — are even rarer. Two incidents — at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida and Santa Fe High School in Texas — accounted for more than half of firearm deaths on campuses in 2018. No other incident in 2018 has resulted in three or more fatalities, though the January shooting at Marshall County High School in Kentucky claimed the lives of two people and injured 18 others.
Go Deeper: The 74 is tracking gun-related injuries and deaths at schools throughout 2018. See every reported incident so far this year. If we’ve missed a school incident you think should be included in our coverage, please send an email to email@example.com, and bookmark this page for the latest reports of incidents involving the discharging of a firearm that causes a wound or fatality on school property.