School Shootings Rose to Highest Number in 20 Years, Data Shows

Carolyn Crist

June 28, 2022

School shootings from 2020 to 2021 climbed to the highest point in 2 decades, according to a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

There were 93 shootings with casualties at public and private K-12 schools across the U.S. from 2020 to 2021, as compared with 23 in the 2000-2001 school year. The latest number included 43 incidents with deaths.

The annual report, which examines crime and safety in schools and colleges, also found a rise in cyberbullying and verbal abuse or disrespect of teachers during the past decade.

"While the lasting impact of these crime and safety issues cannot be measured in statistics alone, these data are valuable to the efforts of our policymakers, school officials and community members to identify and implement preventive and responsive measures," Peggy Carr, PhD, the commissioner for the National Center for Education Statistics, said in a statement.

The report used a broad definition of shootings, which included instances when guns were fired or flashed on school property, as well as when a bullet hit school grounds for any reason and shootings that happened on school property during remote instruction throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 311,000 children at 331 schools have gone through gun violence since the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, according to The Washington Post.

"The increase in shootings in schools is likely a consequence of an overall increase in gun violence and not specific to schools," Dewey Cornell, PhD, a professor of education at the University of Virginia, told the newspaper.

"However, most schools will never have a shooting, and their main problems will be fighting and bullying," he said.

Between 2009 and 2020, the rate of nonfatal criminal victimization, including theft and violent crimes, decreased for ages 12 to 18, the report found. The rate fell from 51 victimizations per 1,000 students to 11. A major portion of the decline happened during the first year of the pandemic.

Lower percentages of public schools reported certain issues from 2019 to 2020 than from 2009 to 2010, the report found. For instance, 15% of schools reported student bullying at least once a week, as compared with 23% a decade ago. Student sexual harassment of other students dropped from 3% to 2%, and student harassment of other students based on sexual orientation or gender identity dropped from 3% to 2%.

At the same time, teachers faced more hardships, the report found. Schools reporting verbal abuse of teachers at least once a week rose to 10% in the 2019-2020 school year, as compared with 5% in the 2009-2010 school year. Schools reporting acts of disrespect for teachers climbed from 9% to 15%.

The percentage of schools that reported cyberbullying at least once a week doubled during the decade, rising from 8% in 2009-2010 to 16% in 2019-2020, the report found. The prominence of social media has likely added to that increase, the Post reported.

What's more, about 55% of public schools offered mental health assessments in 2019-2020, and 42% offered mental health treatment services, the report found. The low rates could be linked to not having enough funding or access to licensed professionals, the newspaper reported.


National Center for Education Statistics: "Report on Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2021," "New NCES Data Show Increases in School Shootings and Cyberbullying in K-12 Schools Over the Last Decade."

The Washington Post: "School shootings rose to highest number in 20 years, federal data says."