Violent Deaths In or Near
Schools Are Rare
~But Communities and Schools Must Heed Threats
December 4, 2001 - by Melinda Kitchell Malico
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention,
and the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Justice shows that while
homicides and suicides in or around elementary and secondary schools are
rare, such incidents may be preventable if schools and communities acquaint
themselves with student behavior that can precede violent events - and
take the proper and recommended steps to head off violent incidents.
"These findings verify that our schools are very safe and that few
people become homicide victims in or near schools," said U.S. Secretary
of Education Rod Paige. "But violence can occur in any school and at any
grade level, which is why our schools and communities must develop school-safety
and emergency plans that cover crime prevention and response."
"Our schools can do many things to keep our children and their
teachers safe, including watching for signals that precede violent outbursts,
paying close attention to threats, and learning to recognize and respond
to bullying behavior."
The study reveals that more than half of all violent incidents recorded
in the study occurred after some type of potential signal came from a young
person such as a threat, note or journal entry. And students who
committed violence were nearly seven times more likely than victims to
have expressed suicidal thoughts or plans or actually attempted suicide.
study also confirms a link between bullying victimization and aggressive
behavior, with those bullied by their peers found to be at especially high
risk for committing violence. Most violent events occurred during times
of transition in schools, during morning arrival times, lunch, or at the
end of the school day.
According to the study, the rate of school-associated events that
resulted in violent deaths decreased significantly since 1992-93, the first
year of the initial study. During the same period, the rate of events in
which more than one victim was killed increased significantly.
The new report was conceived jointly by the agencies in order to
gather and analyze information about the characteristics and incidences
of school-associated violent deaths, data that are not routinely reported
to state or federal agencies. The CDC and ED produced the first such systematic
review of the data in a 1996 report that looked at school years 1992-93
and 1993-94. This study extends and expands on the previous study, examining
the school years 1994-95 through 1998-99.
Bill Modzeleski, director of the U.S. Department of Education's Safe
and Drug Free Schools Program, co-authored the report.
Cases were identified using two strategies: a systematic search of
newspaper and broadcast media databases and the review of a newspaper clipping
service and voluntary reports from state and local education agencies.
The two-pronged review identified events that were subsequently confirmed
as reliable via telephone interviews with law enforcement (in 97 percent
of the cases) or schools (78 percent), or excluded during confirmation
Among the other findings:
253 victims died in 220 school-associated violent death events between
1994-99; among the victims, 68 percent were students, 7.1 percent were
faculty or staff, 4.7 percent were family members of students and 11.9
percent were local residents; among the 279 perpetrators, 36.9 percent
were students, 25.8 percent were local residents and 17.9 percent were
not directly associated with the school or local community; perpetrators
were more likely than victims to have a history of criminal charges, be
in a gang, associate with high-risk peers, be considered loners, or use
alcohol or drugs; the death rate for male students was more than double
that of females; and the death rate for non-Hispanic black students was
more than triple that of whites.
Resources are available from the U.S. Department of Education