Schools Had Most Shootings in 2 Decades, According to New Federal Report

Despite the rise in shootings, nonfatal criminal victimizations dropped from 51 to 11 per 1,000 students, ages 12-18 over the past ten years.

Schools Had Most Shootings in 2 Decades, According to New Federal Report

Chart via Reports on Indicators of School Crime & Safety: 2021

There were 93 school shootings with casualties at U.S. public and private elementary and secondary schools in 2020-2021 — the highest number in 20 years, according to Reports on Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2021, which was released by the federal government on Tuesday.

It’s important to note, however, that during the coronavirus pandemic, “school shootings” included those that happened on school property during remote instruction. That said, compared to 2000-2001 when there were 23 school shootings, the number recorded in 2020-2021 nearly quadrupled.

Other concerning findings were the rise in cyberbullying and student discipline problems related to teachers and classrooms in the past ten years:

  • Cyberbullying: 16% of public schools reported incidents in 2019–2020 vs. 8% in 2009-2010
  • Student verbal abuse of teachers: 10% in 2019-2020 vs. 5% in 2009-2010
  • Student acts of disrespect for teachers other than verbal abuse: 15% vs. 9%
  • Widespread disorder in the classroom: 4% vs. 3%.

Despite the concerning rise in gun violence, student discipline issues, and cyberbullying, there has been some progress in other areas in the past decade. Between 2009 and 2020, the rate of nonfatal criminal victimization (including theft and violent victimization) decreased for students ages 12–18, from 51 to 11 victimizations per 1,000 students.

“Although the victimization rate at school was already decreasing prior to the coronavirus pandemic, changes to school procedures related to the pandemic coincided with a decrease of more than 60% in the victimization rate at school from 2019 to 2020,” the report said. “In addition to the decrease in criminal victimization, student behaviors at school that targeted fellow students were also generally less prevalent compared with a decade ago.”

The decreases in reported incidents included:

  • Student bullying: 15% of schools reported incidents in 2019-2020 compared to 23% in 2009-2010
  • Student sexual harassment: 2% vs. 3%
  • Student harassment of other students based on sexual orientation or gender identity: 2% vs. 3%

Additionally, the study found that more public schools now have a written plan for procedures to be performed in the event of a pandemic disease (52% in 2019-2020 compared to 46% in 2017-2018).

The report also found that schools are embracing security technology and the hiring of more security personnel. From 2009-2010 to 2019-2020, more schools:

  • Controlled access to school buildings: 92% in 2009-2010 to 97% in 2019-2020
  • Used security cameras: 61% to 91%
  • Required faculty and staff to wear ID badges: 63% to 77%
  • Had one or more security staff present at school at least once a week: 43% to 65%

For postsecondary institutions, the rate of crime between 2009 and 2019 decreased from 23.0 to 18.7 incidents per 10,000 full-time equivalent students. Despite the general downward trend over this period, the rate of reported forcible sex offenses on campus increased from 1.7 incidents per 10,000 students in 2009 to 8.0 incidents per 10,000 students in 2019. Forcible sex offenses constituted 43% of all criminal incidents reported on campus in 2019.

In 2019, a total of 757 hate crimes were reported on college campuses, more than half of which were motivated by race or ethnicity.

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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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