Over a six-year period that began with the
1994-95 school year, the study found, 253 people died in 220
school-related violent incidents, 67 percent of which occurred on
school property. Nearly 70 percent of the victims and 37 percent of
the perpetrators were students.
The rate of violent
deaths at schools has actually dropped since 1992, according to the
However, the study's authors say the deadly
eruptions that occur at schools are increasingly likely to claim more
than one life.
In the worst such incident, two teenage
gunmen killed 12 students and one teacher before taking their own
lives in the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Jefferson
Still, federal officials say there may be
steps schools can take to head off that level of violence.
"It's become very clear ... that many of these incidents are
preventable," said William Modzeleski, the director of the U.S.
Department of Education's Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program and a
co- author of the report.
To begin with, the report
points out, taking suicide threats seriously may be one solution.
Those who committed acts of deadly violence were nearly seven times
more likely than their victims to have expressed some form of
suicidal behavior prior to the event.
According to the study, which was published in
the Dec. 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical
Association, most of the deadly incidents occurred during
"transition times": the start of school, lunch periods, or the end of
the school day.
"Efforts to reduce crowding, increase
supervision, and institute plans for handling disputes during these
intervals may reduce the likelihood that conflicts will occur and
injuries will result when they do," the report says.
What's more, researchers found that in just over half the cases
there were signals of impending violence in the form of notes,
threats, journal entries, arguments, or physical fights. Nearly half
the events were motivated by disputes, and another 24 percent were
"School administrators, teachers, and
parents need to develop mechanisms for reporting threats and other
actions that may warn of a potential event," said Mark Anderson, a
CDC epidemiologist and a co-author of the study.
same time, the authors of the report stressed that violent deaths at
schools are rare.
"Schools remain safe places for
students," Mr. Anderson said. "Of all homicides and suicides that
occur among school-age children, less than 1 percent are associated
with a school. The risk for violent death that a child faces while in
school is less than one in a million."
epidemiologist highlighted the finding that guns were used in
three-quarters of the incidents examined in the study.
To fit the study's definition of school-related deaths, the
incidents had to occur on the campus of a public or private
elementary or secondary school, or when the victim was on the way to
or from school, or was attending or traveling to or from a
The information in the study was