School Shooting Statistics Can Be Misleading

Reports of school shootings can be misleading as statistically, most gun reports on school campus don't account to mass death.

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner | Published

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school shootings

Over the past few years increased reports of school shootings have frightened parents and children. Statistics are plastered all over the media each time a deadly incident occurs, but the entire story is not. Knowing how to interpret the data is a key element in understanding school safety needs and offering sound information to students who may be struggling after the deadly Uvalde shooting, which killed 19 schoolchildren and 2 teachers. 

In order to properly examine the data, it is important to first understand the full definition of a school shooting. While many people correlate the term with an active shooter incident, school shootings are defined by the Center for Homeland Defense and Security as “when a gun is brandished, is fired, or a bullet hits school property for any reason, regardless of the number of victims (including zero), time, day of the week, or reason.” This includes suicides or incidents unrelated to schoolchildren, teachers, or school staff. 

In truth, students are very rarely killed in school shootings, and though school violence is on the rise many incidents are common fights brought on by social issues and mental health problems which were exacerbated during pandemic lockdowns. In truth, only 27 deaths have been recorded from school shootings this year. This is up from last year which saw a total of 15, but millions of children go to school each day without falling prey to school violence, or a mass shooting. Many news outlets play up the dangers of school shootings and even go so far as to confuse these incidents with “mass shootings,” which are not often interchangeable

While some claim that gun violence is on the rise, pointing to an increased number of mass shooting incidents, the fact is that the definition of a mass shooting was changed in 2015. Once defined as 4 or more people killed in a single act of violence, mass shootings are now defined as 4 or more people hit by bullets. Not every modern mass shooting is deadly, nor are the victims always harmed in the same incident. School shootings are often reported the same way. Instead of easing parents’ concerns by offering sound information and being sensitive to victims’ needs, the majority of reports plaster specific statistics while overlooking the broader body of information. To offer more perspective, a criminologist at Northeastern University, James Allen Fox declared, “There is not an epidemic of mass shootings.” He has studied the data for years and found that “What’s increasing and is out of control is the epidemic of fear.” 

The odds of an American child being killed in a mass school shooting are about the same as being struck by lightning. It is a 1 in 10 million risk, a 0.00001% chance. While the public focus is directed to gun violence and preventing school shootings, stabbings and other altercations are on the rise and need to be addressed. While many lawmakers are quick to sound the alarm on youth mental illness, plenty of school officials are overlooking harmful policies which encourage students to be divisive and biased based on identifying characteristics.  

school shooting

Regardless of the reason, most school shooting statistics are used for misleading purposes. Many shootings just happen to be on or near school grounds and result in no casualties. Violent altercations without a gun are usually isolated incidents involving students who are feuding. This being so, schools and lawmakers who focus on utilizing community resources to resolve disputes are more likely to reduce school violence than other solutions being sought.