How districts can proactively protect against school shootings

Key points:

The U.S. continues to grapple with its gun-related violence problem as new shootings make headlines every day. In 2022, Americans witnessed the horror of the second deadliest school shooting of all time, which resulted in the deaths of 19 students and two teachers. While Robb Elementary School was the target in this particular tragedy, school shootings have proven to have a domino effect that permeates the entire school system.

K-12 schools are facing a national teacher shortage and declining public school student enrollments, with enrollment dropping by roughly 3 percent in 2020-21 compared with the previous school year. These declines cannot be attributed solely to budget cuts, salary disputes, or curriculum changes. In a recent National Center for Education study, 57 percent of students and 63 percent of parents claimed they are worried about a shooting happening at their school, while 40 percent of teachers reported feeling less safe compared to five years ago.

Furthermore, according to K-12 School Shooting Database founder David Riedman, 100,000 out of 130,000 U.S. schools experienced some sort of active shooter hoax, tip, or related threat in 2022, and this is a conservative estimate based on limited public reporting at the state and county level. The fear, anxiety, and psychological fallout that students and staff experience from swatting is similar to that caused by actual school shootings.

When looking at these statistics, it is clear that teacher resignations and student public school dropout rates are at least partly connected to the rise in school shootings, swatting, and gun-related threats. School shootings have created a public perception that school properties are unsafe. Children’s main worries used to be who they sat next to at lunch or whether they aced their algebra test – now they are worried whether they’ll make it to second period alive.

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