Are You Covering All of Your Campus Safety Bases?

New research tells us that schools are too focused on active shooters and should pay more attention to accidental causes of death and other threats.

Five times more K-12 students and staff have died from homicides not related to active shooter incidents than from active shooter situations on school property during the past 15 years.  That’s according to research recently completed by Steve Satterly. In his groundbreaking report Relative Causes of Death published by the Maine Department of Education. Satterly proves conclusively that active shooter events are not the leading cause of death in American K-12 schools.

Satterly’s research is the first time the standard U.S. Government definition for active shooter incidents has been used to determine how many people have been murdered by active shooters in American K-12 schools. He spent two months crunching data to compare active shooter deaths to other primary causes of death at schools. In a finding that that took me by surprise, Satterly also found that twice as many people died from suicide on school property as were murdered by active shooters.

Satterly also found that other more common causes of death are also not receiving as much attention. For example, 8.5 times more people died in school-transportation incidents during the time frame. However, since the Sandy Hook tragedy, school and public safety officials have often focused an inordinate amount of their limited time and fiscal resources to prevention of and preparation for active shooter events.

Steve Satterly will be a presenter at the Campus Safety Conference July 31-Aug. 1 in Los Angeles. He will discuss the warning signs of violence and participate in our active shooter response panel. To register for the event, click here.

Active shooter events are one very real possibility for any school in America, and no community can afford to ignore the very real possibility of such an event on campus.  At the same time, Satterly’s work indicates that school officials should also devote attention to the types of violent deaths they are far more likely to experience.

Satterly also attempted to determine how many staff and students have died from common medical emergencies, such as heart attacks and from non-vehicular accidents. Unfortunately, he found that apparently no one is tracking these relatively common types of campus deaths on the national level. I recall a single deadly week where four students died from heart stoppage in Atlanta metropolitan area schools. There are many indicators that these are probably the most likely causes of death in K-12 schools, yet Satterly found no agency in the U.S. government that even tracks these types of deaths. 

One of Satterly’s conclusions is that school and public safety officials should not ignore other primary causes of death while addressing active shooter incidents, which kill fewer people each year. Though Satterly noted a slight increase in K-12 active shooter incidents in recent years, we have seen these types of increases followed by multi-year drops in the past. Allocating precious time and budget wisely involves broader approaches to school safety. The lives of students and staff depend on it. 

Bottom line: address all common forms of death on school property, not just those highlighted by the media.

Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

Photo via Wikimedia

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About the Author


Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a global non profit campus safety center. During his 30 year campus safety career, Michael has served as a university police officer, corporal, sergeant and lieutenant. He served as a school system police chief for ten years before being appointed the lead expert for the nation's largest state government K-20 school safety center. The author of 25 books on school safety, his work has taken him to Central America, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East. Michael welcomes comments, questions or requests for clarification at Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

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