Violent incidents in schools increased 113 percent during the past school year, a new study finds.
Schools saw 279 violent incidents during the 2017-18 school year, up from 131 the previous year, according to a study by the Educator's School Safety Network, a national non-profit school safety organization.
The study, released Aug. 6, found that the most frequent violent incident was finding a gun on campus, followed by shootings and thwarted attacks. The study also found an increase in threats of violence in schools across the country, with nearly 1,300 more threats made during the current school year compared with last year.
The uptick can't be traced back to a single cause, according to Amy Klinger, director of programs at the Educator's School Safety Network and co-author of the report. She said the main reason schools are seeing an increase in violence is because not enough preventive action is taken until it's too late.
"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."
In March, the House passed the STOP School Violence Act to give over $1 billion to schools and local governments over the next decade for violence prevention. The money would be used for metal detectors and other tools and programs.
Doctor Drew Barzman, a child forensic psychiatrist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, said training teachers on warning signs in students is critical to keep schools safe. Barzman said warning signs can range from subtle behavior changes, like becoming withdrawn, to actually making threats against teachers and fellow students.
"I don’t think teachers know, off hand, what to look for right now," Barzman said. "That’s something we can educate teachers about."
Parkland's Complicated Legacy
The report found that 27 percent of the violent incidents in the current school year have happened since the Valentine's Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 dead. In the 30 days following the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, 35 percent of threats for the entire school year occurred, as did 27 percent of all violent incidents, according to the report.
But Klinger said the Parkland shooting isn't solely to blame for the rise in violent incidents during the school year. Between fall 2016 and fall 2017, before the shooting itself, violence in schools had already increased 60 percent. In fall 2017, there were 90 acts of violence committed at schools, including shootings on the Rancho Tehama Reserve in California and Freeman High School in Rockford, Washington.
Parkland points to a greater problem in schools around the United States, Klinger said.
"Parkland was not a catalyst for the increase, but a symptom of the overall increase. It’s oversimplifying to say, 'Parkland happened, and therefore you have a 113 percent increase in incidents of violence,'" Klinger said. "There was an increase already in the works."
The Parkland shooting has a more direct correlation with the increase in threats of violence, according to Klinger. She said high-profile shootings make people more willing to report guns on campuses or threats against schools.
Students are rarely unaware of high-profile acts of violence like the Parkland shooting, Barzman said.
"They all know about it," Barzman said. "Confusion is one common theme. So is being really scared and not really knowing what to think."
However, Klinger said that heightened awareness due to the Parkland shooting still cannot account for the increase in violence schools saw in the fall semester. Factors ranging from access to weapons to a lack of school preparedness all played a part in the uptick.
"That’s what I think is so frustrating about school safety in general," Klinger said. "There are no easy answers and quick fixes."