Grim School Shooting Stats

The kind of stats we don’t like to hear:

Despite increased security put in place after the massacre at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, there’s been no real reduction in the number of U.S. school shootings.

Experts say the rate of school shootings is statistically unchanged since the mid- to late-1990s, yet still remains troubling.

And as for our children’s vocabulary, the word “lockdown” is a sad part of their school vocabulary.

Many fingers are pointed at a broken mental health system.

Indeed, pointing fingers and identifying “culprits” for the tragic occurrences and school violence seems to be the foundation upon which a house of cards is built.

The thing about statistics and numbers is that there are many ways to interpret them.

Have all of these efforts failed?

  • The recent budget deal in Congress provides $140 million to support safe school environments, and is a $29 million increase, according to the office of Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
  • About 90 percent of districts have tightened security since the Newtown shootings, estimates Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers.
  • Many schools now have elaborate school safety plans and more metal detectors, surveillance cameras and fences.
  • They’ve taken other steps, too, such as requiring ID badges and dress codes. Similar to fire drills, some schools practice locking down classrooms, among their responses to potential violence.
  • Attention also has focused on hiring school resource officers, sworn law enforcement officers who are trained to work in a school environment

We tend to focus on “grim” statistics. We dwell on that which shocks the conscience.

But we know about incidents precisely because they are incidents. We really don’t know non-incidents.

As an example, a burglar commits a burglary in a residential area that does not have a safety patrol vehicle. We have one incident. A burglar sees a safety patrol vehicle and leaves the area. We have one non-incident. But we don’t know it.

It is difficult to surmise that all of the safety-enhancing measures adopted especially in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre have – judging by statistics – been for naught. The so-called non-incidents.

Preventive measures tend to operate in silence. But non-incidents do exist. And perhaps we need to become more adept at highlighting them. The hope of improvement is a good thing. Taking it away breeds something akin to “learned helplessness”: when effort seems futile, one gives up trying.

So, let’s not give up trying. And let’s look for signs that some of things we are doing to promote school safety – the non-incidents – actually are noticed.


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