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 nearly 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). 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 below 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.
Methods & Search Keywords for Gathering Data & How I Obtain My Information
My search engine strategies are numerous and always expanding. I use any and all information available including the school’s name, shooter’s name, victim’s name, and names of others involved to search for information(the victim's name is probably the best way). It also helps greatly to mix and match the known facts into your search. If there is multiple victims in a particular shooting use every victim’s name individually and together. Sometimes I even purposefully misspell the name of victims or the shooter’s name, and the school while searching for information. I have been amazed by what I have found by simply misspelling names! The more creative you are with search methods the greater the results are.
Here are some examples of what I put into a search engine:
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.
Newspaper archives are by far the most valuable source. They are a treasure trove of information! The best source by far is newspapers.com (and easiest to use and navigate through). I also use newspaperarchive.com , the New York Times archive, High Beam Research and many other newspaper archives. These are paid subscriptions but I have also found some shootings from elephind.com which is free. I use similar tactics mentioned above with newspaper archives. The main focus with archives are the shooter's and victim(s) names although using the school’s name is sometimes valueable. With newspapers.com you can break it down by date (and date range), state, or by a specific newspaper. It is truly a great site! Other valuable resources are casetext.com, justia.com, and courtlistener.com, and leagle.com to name a few.
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.
In addition, I also have created other spreadsheets of no shots fired incidents involving guns at schools, off campus (or near) school shootings, and bb gun shootings at schools at America's schools that I have found along the way or that were mixed in with on-campus shootings on other research projects. 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.
Definition of a shooting at a school
If a firearm was discharged on school property, at school-sponsored events (like the prom, talent shows, athletic events, etc…), on (or at) a school bus, or when a firearm is discharged at the school from off campus and a bullet strikes the school building or people on campus it is included in the database no matter the cause or classification (or type) of shooting.
Definitions of Mass School Shootings
This section takes a look at the different definitions that are used to define Mass School Shootings.
The acronyms used to identify the different definitions of Mass School Shootings in the database are found in the Columns C-F and are used to track the number of mass shootings at schools that meet the criteria. The reason for having the different classifications of Mass School Shootings is because of the on-going debate of what constitutes a mass shooting. See the document below titled 'Number of Shootings at America's Schools Through American History'.
Active Shooter Events (ASE)
Are defined as two or more injured and/or killed. ASE shootings are marked the color orange in the database. These shootings include Mass School Shootings when the numbers of deaths and injuries exceed more than two people. Mass School Shootings are also included in this category.
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:
PASE shootings are marked the color red in the database.
High Casulty & 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:
HCIS incidents are marked by the color dark green in the database.
Parameters for a Shooting to be Included in the Database:
Types of Shootings that Occur at America’s Schools:
There is rarely, if ever, a single cause 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 cause. An example of this would be the motive of Parkland, FL shooter who sought notoriety, had revenge in his heart, and obviously has an mental illness. Also, the many mistakes from the Broward County authorities, MSD school administartors and employees could easily, and should, be considered as a contributing factor to the massacre.
Another example of this is a kid taking a gun to school because of being bullied and then he accidently discharges the gun while it was in his backpack. So this shooting would be classified as Accidental (because he fired the weapon unintentionally), and Bullying (because it was the reason he brought the firearm to school).
Types (or Causes) of School Shootings Incident
-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
Main Databases (or lists) of School Shootings I’ve Gone Through
Each and every one of the lists below have shootings that have happened off campus, no shots fired incidents involving firearms, or bb gun shootings in them. The reason being is that they do not delve deep enough into each shooting and critique them with the necessary scrutiny needed.
3 National School Safety and Security Services (schoolsecurity.org)
School Year-Associated Violent Deaths, Shooting Incidents, & Other High-Profile Incidents