I read an interesting article in the Washington Post yesterday, about the statistics on school shootings. The Fact Checker column asks, “Has there been one school shooting per week since Sandy Hook?” and examines a statement made by Senator Chris Murphy during a speech on the Senate floor last week:
“Since Sandy Hook there has been a school shooting, on average, every week. How on earth can we live with ourselves if we do nothing?”
Because I follow these incidents closely to see what our industry can learn from them, I would say that the prevalence of school shootings has been much lower than that. While every violent incident on school property is important, and one shooting is too many, it’s important to understand the statistics. When we look at school security strategies like classroom lockdown, inflated statistics on school shootings can lead to measures that jeopardize life safety, like the use of barricade devices.
From the Washington Post:
Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, said he has not seen an authoritative data source or universal definition on “school shootings.” Trump noted the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ annual “Indicators of School Crime and Safety” report, which defines School Associated Violent Deaths as “a homicide, suicide, or legal intervention (involving a law enforcement officer), in which the fatal injury occurred on the campus of a functioning elementary or secondary school in the United States.”
“Federal and state statistics tend to grossly underestimate the extent of school crime and violence. Public perception tends to overstate it. Reality exists somewhere in between these two, but in terms of actual real numbers, nobody honestly knows exactly where this ‘somewhere’ is,” Trump said.
The report referenced in the article – Indicators of School Crime and Safety – is a 208-page report packed with statistics looking at school violence from every angle, and the statistics on non-fatal victimization are sobering. For example:
During the 2009–10 school year, 85 percent of public schools recorded that one or more crime incidents had taken place at school, amounting to an estimated 1.9 million crimes. This translates to a rate of 40 crimes per 1,000 public school students enrolled in 2009–10. During the same year, 60 percent of public schools reported a crime incident that occurred at school to the police, amounting to 689,000 crimes—or 15 crimes per 1,000 public school students enrolled.
It’s imperative that we consider the high incidence of non-fatal-victimization in schools, as methods used to protect against active shooters could unintentionally put students and teachers in greater danger. School districts have a legal responsibility to provide a safe environment for building occupants, and could be held liable if they fail to do so.
Later today, the governor of Ohio will approve the state budget bill, which currently includes language that would allow the use of barricade devices in schools. The media is reporting that some budget line items will be vetoed by the governor – will barricades be one of those items? I’ll post an update as soon as I know.
UPDATE: The governor vetoed 44 items from the budget bill but the barricade section was not one of the 44: http://governor.ohio.gov/Portals/0/pdf/Sub%20Am%20HB%2064%20Veto%20Message_Signed.pdf. We will have to hope that the Board will add some limitations – their decision is due on July 24th.