This week, two teachers have been killed on school grounds, allegedly by students. Michael Landsberry, a teacher from Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nevada, and Colleen Ritzer, a teacher at Danvers High School in Danvers, Massachusetts, are remembered as wonderful teachers, beloved by their students and colleagues. Yesterday an 11-year-old boy brought several knives, a gun, and 400 rounds of ammunition to Frontier Middle School in Vancouver, Washington. Two weeks ago, an ROTC student in uniform brought a gun into Hickman Mills Junior High School in Kansas City, Missouri, even though the school was equipped with metal detectors. Thankfully, noone was injured in either of those cases.
These incidents surprise us. We theorize that this violence is caused by a lack of gun control, rise in mental health issues or inaccessibility of treatment, lack of parental guidance, alcohol and drug abuse, or lenient punishments at school. We wonder what the world is coming to. But this is not a new problem. And although we tend to focus on the incidents that involve mass casualties, the number of casualties from one-on-one incidents is actually much higher.
A few months ago, a report of the Rural School and Community Trust was released: Violence in U.S. K-12 Schools, 1974–2013: Patterns in Deadly Incidents and Mass Threat. This report was compiled from 700 media accounts of incidents of school violence, beginning in 1974. From the RSCT:
“Among these incidents, we found 80 accounts of mass violence, claiming 155 lives Although mass violence events capture more media attention, we found three times more deaths in one-on-one incidents. Overall, students were the most frequent perpetrators and victims of violence in schools. Only in elementary schools did adult intruders constitute a significant percentage of violent actors.
These numbers corroborate other evidence that schools can significantly reduce violence by developing positive environments that engage everyone in meaningful work and help students learn to prevent, resolve, and manage conflict.
The report underscores the need for more and better information about violence in the U.S. and about the practices and policies that will reduce the likelihood that anyone will be victimized at school or school functions.”
Take a look at the statistics. They may surprise you.
You can download the complete report from RuralEdu.org.
Infographic: Rural School and Community Trust.