Study: Threats and Violence on the Rise in K-12 Schools

The recent study looked at threats and violence in American schools during the 2017-2018 school year to examine frequency, range and severity.

Study: Threats and Violence on the Rise in K-12 Schools

The Parkland shooting has impacted the increase in threats and violence seen in schools, the study found.

Instances of threats and violence are increasing in schools since the Parkland shooting, according to a new report that offered recommendations for school officials.

Amy Klinger, director of programs at the Educator’s School Safety Network and co-author of the report, believes the main reason schools are seeing an increase in violence is due to the lack of preventive action, reports THV 11. 

“We’re waiting until things are so bad that we have a perpetrator with a gun before we do something,” Klinger said. “If they (teachers) do have training, it’s in active shooter response. It’s not in violence prevention, threat-assessment or being able to identify and intervene with individuals of concern.”

Report Evaluates Threats and Violence in Schools

In the 2017-2018 school year, more than 3,659* threats and incidents of violence occurred in K-12 schools in America. With 3,380 being threats, the number has increased 62 percent from last school year.

In the report, a threat is described as an expressed intent to do harm. Administrators and law enforcement have been forced to determine the validity of threats with little to no assessment protocols, few established best practices, lack of safety training and outdated procedures, according to the report’s authors.

The most common type of threat in the 2017-2018 school year was shooting threats, followed by unspecific threats and bomb threats.

Social media was reported to be the most common method of delivery, followed by written threats in bathrooms and verbal comments.

As for acts of violence, there were 279 reported violent occurrences this past year compared to the 131 events the previous year – an increase of 113 percent.

The most typical acts of violence this year were guns found on campus, shootings or shots fired and countered attacks.

Parkland’s Impact on Violence in Schools 

The report also considered the impact the Parkland shooting has had on schools. Before Parkland, the average number of threats per day was 10.2. After the shooting, the figure jumped to 24.2. Forty-three percent of all threats documented in the 2017-2018 school year occurred merely 30 days after Parkland.

Additionally, 77 guns were found on school campuses this year, a significant increase from the 21 guns discovered the previous year. After the Parkland shooting specifically, there was a 75 percent increase of guns brought on campus compared to before.

Recommendations for Improving School Safety

The report closes with recommendations on how to improve school safety. It begins with the importance of acknowledging the impact violent incidents and threats have on academic achievement and emotional safety. When violence arises, according to the report, learning stops and emotional safety is compromised.

Next, the authors recommend examining the role of law enforcement in schools as officers contribute to both the safety and education of students.

Furthermore, a violent act in a school is different than in a home or public setting and it is critical for law enforcement to acknowledge their unique setting.

Likewise, schools should make sure all staff is trained for crisis situations specific to a school.

For more information and recommendations on improving school safety, check out the full report here.

*Please note an earlier version of this article was incorrect. It has been updated to reflect the correct data.

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About the Author


Katie Malafronte is Campus Safety's Web Editor. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2017 with a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Writing & Rhetoric. Katie has been CS's Web Editor since 2018.

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5 responses to “Study: Threats and Violence on the Rise in K-12 Schools”

  1. Rick Shaffer says:

    Most School Districts put safety on someone who is already over worked like myself I am the Director of Maintenance/Emergency Operations for a 4000 student district.It is very hard to give 100% to both I do the best I can but there is so much more we could do.School safety is my passion and just meeting to state requirement is not good enough in my mind we need to do more training and work on school climate.
    I would love to funding for School Safety Directors even one per county so everyone is on the same page and to share resources all first responders know how each school’s plan.

  2. S. Stone says:

    I am saddened by the comment “…believes the main reason schools are seeing an increase in violence is due to the lack of preventive action…” My guess is that Ms. Klinger didn’t intend to blame schools in this comment and I appreciate her frustration with the situation that schools are faced with. I understand the challenges of being in the business of school security, can empathize with this remark and yet don’t agree with it. As school safety & security specialist (17+ years of experience) and an instructor in a college Homeland Security program, I believe there are always more strategies we can use to prevent violent incidents, however, I STRONGLY believe that our teachers, staff and administrators engage in preventative measures every day they are on campus with our children. When they provide consistent discipline, are firm but fair, use strategies for different learning modalities, have an after-school program, teach social skills, listen to a child, refer a child to a psychologist/counselor, engage in PBIS or restorative justice/practices, etc. – they are preventing incidents.

    I don’t necessarily think that schools are failing our children, I think society as a whole has failed our children. Schools are asked not only to work through student problems, but also adult problems (custody issues, domestic violence, adults making threats, parental/guardian arrests, etc.). What goes on at the home and in the community is brought to the school.

    While I encourage our staff to increase their protective measures (there is always room for growth), I like to point out that they already do AMAZING work. No other single institution, that I know, is called upon to be so much for so many people. While the government (local, county, state, etc.) is broken into components of what schools do (nutrition, special needs, law enforcement/security, education, counseling, etc.), schools are expected, with the resources that they have, to be all this and more for our students and adults.

    Violent incidents don’t occur because teachers, administrators and staff aren’t doing their job or learning how to prevent violent incidents. Violent incidents are occurring because people decide to act violently. Let’s stop blaming schools for things they work to prevent every day. Safety and security measures are a myriad to things that schools do to improve social, emotional, physical, and mental well-being, in addition to physical security. To all the teachers, staff and administrators – keep up the amazing work you do every day to prevent violent incidents.

  3. Matthew Lowers says:

    Very well said, I am also a Veteran of School Security as a Security Specialist for a very large school district (80,000 students K-12). I agree with the Admin and Teaching Staff becoming more involved in preventive measures. I also think our profession is so over looked by EVERYONE, from the Superintendent’s to the parents and our community. We need more funding and more training just to keep up, not to stay ahead of the game and that my friend is sad. Our most precious resource is our children and we are on the front lines. Thanks Just my 2 cents.

  4. Prefer NotToSay says:

    I appreciate how the Educator’s School Safety Network authors are trying to help others with school safety. And, of course, any violence in schools is too much. However, I don’t see how the authors can make many of their claims, which reflect poorly on many states and schools that are doing an outstanding job of keeping their schools safe with the resources they have. Here’s 3 problems with the report:

    1) As there’s no standard national reporting system, the authors got their data from “media sources”, but this data is not reliable. How can reports be identified if they’re not reported by the media? What if there aren’t media outlets in a particular area? What if the media is not prioritizing the reporting of threats, which is why they’re not being seen? The authors then acknowledge the lack of consistent information in the recommendations; 2) The type of threats tracked includes “generalized or unspecified threats of violence.” What does that include? A 1st grader threatening to hit another kid? Based on that generalization, a bomb threat would be treated as serious as a kid threatening to hit another kid (i.e., both are counted as one incident); 3) Based on the data about threats, how do the authors come up with the recommendations to examine the role of law enforcement and “stop buying stuff…”. Those recommendations aren’t based on any of the data—it’s just personal opinion.

  5. […] are increasing threats and incidents of violence within school grounds and officials will not know. Here’s a fun […]

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