Among violent tragedies in America, few are as horrible as shootings that kill and injure students at our nation’s institutions of learning. In a civilized society it’s simply intolerable that so many parents send a child to school in the morning, off to college, or to a vocational school only to learn that that their beloved child was killed , injured, or was witness to a mindless act of violence utilizing a firearm. Another intolerable aspect about shootings at our schools is the debate over the emotionally charged term “school shooting” and the disgraceful research efforts of activist groups, academia, and the government.
As I have waded through the available literature and research on shootings at American schools over the last decade while doing this research the two constants have been disappointment in the dismal efforts of academic researchers and biased information from activists groups (like Everytown for Gun Safety) and the government (K-12 School Shooting Database) who conflate the data by adding incidents where a gun was only brandished and/or doing extremely vague and misleading work. Why have academic professionals, activist researchers, and the U.S government. produced so little effort and quality empirical data to protect the very best among us, our children?
With all the confusion about the emotionally charged term "school shooting" I have attempted to create a database of all the different types of shootings at America's institutions of learning in the hope to clear up the misinformation and biased research efforts out there about these unfortunate events. Utilizing an Excel spreadsheet with 60 columns has made it possible to document over 1,650 on-campus shootings, shootings at school-sponsored events (like the Prom, talent shows, sporting events, etc…), or shootings on (or at) school buses dating back 178 years from 1840 to present day with over 1,240 of the shootings occurring since 1990.
The database covers all classifications of shootings at America’s schools (see list below) and includes all levels and types of education institutions. If it is a learning environment in America it is included. The database includes shootings at K-12 schools, colleges and universities, community colleges, specialty and vocational schools, military schools, bible or theological schools, preschools and even daycare centers. There are also separate spreadsheets on the site of the active shooter and mass school shootings along with the different defintions that are used by different groups and organizations to define what a mass shooting is. These are the shootings that grab the headlines and are what are considered and thought of when you hear the term"school shooting".
The database includes fights (spontaneous or feuds) that resulted in a shooting, accidental shootings, suicides, gang related disputes, police shootings, shootings that have nothing to do with the school other than the location, shootings arising from behavioral problems, drug-related disputes, terrorist acts, domestic disputes stemming from rejection (or divorce), and many other types of shootings at America’s schools.
This may seem too broad of a scope for some but the detailed, transparent, and specific nature of the spreadsheet makes it easy to determine and classify the different types of shootings happening at American schools, training centers, and colleges. The database also documents the distinct characteristics and facts about each shooting. The design of the database also makes it easy to select or omit shootings based on the criteria one would like to study or whatever definition a group chooses to define a "school shooting" as.
To facilitate verification of the information in the database at www.schoolshootingdatabase.com an extensive bibliography of over 20,000 open source articles, court records, police documents, official reports and books on the subject, etc... also has been created. No other research project about shootings at America's schools can claim the specificity and depth that this project can.
Parameters for a Shooting to be Included in the Database:
Database Does Not Include:
Methods & Search Keywords for Gathering Data & How I Obtain My Information
Here are some examples of what I put into a search engine (google, bing, etc…) to gather information:
Regular search engines (google, bing, etc..) will only take you so far. The city (or town) of the shooting, school's name, victim's name(s), and the shooter's name(s) are the best ways to find information. It is best to always include the year of the shooting into the search but it is useful sometimes to exclude the year.
Sometimes I do not include the words "school shooting" but use the shooter's name (or victim's name or both) and school's name together. Sometimes I use the shooter’s name, victim’s name, school’s name, alone. The key is persistence and repetition, and to always look for new search methods and trying different things to find information.
I have recently been looking for new entries using newspapers.com. The new tactic I have been employing is typing in the year,say “1978”, and the term “school shooting”. It comes back with a lot of possibilities (several thousand most of the time) and I go thru them. It is very time consuming but worth it. It is also useful to use keywords like “student shooting” and the like. I have only done this for a 7 years so far and have added nearly 50 school shootings to the database. I have been stunned the number of unknown on-campus shootings I have found doing this! I had 5 shootings for the year 1980 but now have 20 shootings for 1980 because of the new tactic. A similar thing happened for 1978. I had 6 shootings for 1978 but now have 16.
One draw back to this method is that you have to screen the potential shootings very closely because there are numerous shooting incidents that happen near schools, no shots fired incidents involving guns at schools , an bb gun shootings within the search results. Google Alerts is also very useful but has the same drawbacks.
Court Documents (when available)
Police Reports (when available)
To facilitate verification of the information in the database at www.schoolshootingdatabase.com an extensive bibliography of over 20,000 open source articles, court records, police documents, official reports and books on the subject, etc... has been created. No other research project about shootings at America’s schools can claim the specificity and depth that this project can.
although some (a very small number and mostly older) shootings have only one source.
Definitions of Mass School Shootings
This section takes a look at the different definitions that are used to define Mass School Shootings.
Active Shooter Events (ASE)
Potential Active Shooter Events (PASE)
Are defined as shootings that had the potential and warning signs to become an active shooter/mass shooting attack but the shooter did not carry out the attack due to one of several reasons listed below:
High Casualty & Injury Shootings(HCIS)
Are defined as shootings with a high number of deaths and injuries but are not Active Shooter Events or Mass School Shootings. These types of shootings usually are:
Main Databases (or lists) of Shootings at America’s Schools I’ve Gone Through:
Each and every one of these lists below have shootings that have happened off campus, no shots fired incidents involving firearms, or bb gun shootings. The reason being is that they do not delve deep enough into each shooting and critique them with the necessary scrutiny needed.When a shooting in the database at schoolshootingdatabase.com is found not occur on a school campus or at a school-sponsored event, be an incident involving a firearm at a school with no shots fired, or a bb gun shooting here it is marked in Notes 1 or Notes 2:
The shooting incident is then removed and placed into the correct separate spreadsheet after confirmation. I believe adding these types of shooting incidents with actual shootings at U.S. schools hinders the quality and integrity of any research project. Adding these types of shooting incidents is very dishonest and will distort your database’s results and create confusion on a topic that is already murky and difficult to understand.
This has happened in all school shooting research projects I have examined. I have learned over nearly a decade of research that it is a part of the process. It is why I doggedly browse the internet and newspaper archives for police reports, court documents, official reports and use several different newspaper and legal document archives to find as many articles and sources for each school shooting as I can possibly find to confirm the information within the database. Not doing so is a fundamental research flaw and a disservice to America's students.
3 National School Safety and Security Services (schoolsecurity.org)
School Year-Associated Violent Deaths, Shooting Incidents, & Other High-Profile Incidents
Types of Shootings that Occur at America’s Schools:
There is rarely, if ever, a single cause for a shooting at a school. Violence, especially with a firearm, is a complex and multi-faceted problem with many contributing factors and causes. It is very common for a shooting to have more than one of the causes below.
Types (or Causes) of School Shooting Incidents
-Revenge or Feud
-Suicide by Cop
-Sexual assault or Rape
-Against War (Vietnam, etc…)
-Loss of Child
-Bad Home Life
-Fear of Getting Caught
-On a Dare
-Trying to Escape
-To highlight the lack of security at the school (teacher shot herself in the arm)
-Didn’t like the teacher (the teacher was beloved by all)
-Failing Out of School
-Motive Not Known