- School shootings with casualties have generally increased in the past few years and continued to rise even during the COVID-19 pandemic when schools were closed for extended periods of time, according to federal data shared Wednesday by the National Center for Education Statistics.
- In the 2019-20 school year, during which the pandemic started, there were 78 shootings recorded. School shootings increased to 93 during the 2020-21 school year and more than doubled to 188 in 2021-22.
- By comparison, other school victimization indicators — such as active shooter incidents and student misbehavior — decreased or showed no significant change during the pandemic.
The report was developed in a joint effort with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, which has been compiling similar research with NCES on school crime and safety for 25 years. The school shooting data was originally sourced from the Center for Homeland Defense and Security and compiled by NCES.
CHDS defined "school shootings" in a relatively broad way to include "all incidents in which a gun is brandished or fired or a bullet hits school property for any reason." CHDS' count included incidents regardless of the number of victims (including zero), time, day or reason.
The numbers show that shootings have been on the overall incline for the past decade, other than a dip in 2015-16. It's a trend that is one part of what NCES Commissioner Peggy Carr called the "sobering challenges" schools face.
"These matters concern everyone in the education community, spanning from families with young children to students in college," Carr said.
The data confirms the trend of steadily increased school shootings recorded by other sources and media reports.
Numbers from the K-12 School Shooting Database, which in July 2022 took over the data collection conducted by CHDS, showed that incidents reached a record high in the 2022 calendar year. That count includes any acts of gun violence on K-12 public, private and charter school campuses, including mass and gang shootings, domestic violence, shootings at sports games and after-hour events, and suicide or other incidents.
David Riedman, who was part of the CHDS research team and now runs the K-12 School Shooting Database, projects that shootings in 2023 will outpace the record high from 2022. If shootings continue at the pace that they have been, then this year will see approximately 338 incidents, an increase from the 305 recorded last year.
So far, there have been over 220 incidents in 2023 recorded by the database.
These numbers come as both state and federal policymakers remain divided nationwide on potential solutions to gun violence on school grounds.
Following the May 2022 Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, for example, Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. House Judiciary Committee clashed over how to address such violent acts.
On one hand, Republican lawmakers spoke against gun control measures and in defense of the sale of AR-15s — a model of semi-automatic rifle commonly used by perpetrators in mass shootings. They attributed violent acts like mass shootings in schools to single-mother households and a lack of Judeo-Christian teachings in the classroom.
“That’s what it comes down to — more than fatherlessness — we have started teaching children that there is no absolute right and wrong,” said former Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, during the December hearing.
Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers continued to push for responsible gun ownership, increased age limits on gun purchases, background checks, red flag laws that hinder gun ownership for people considered dangers to themselves or others, a ban on AR-15s and improved law enforcement training.
How to address gun violence on school grounds is a controversy state leaders also face, with proposals such as arming teachers and integrating SEL into curricula dividing lawmakers as recently as the latest legislative sessions, many of which have now wrapped up for the year.