One Student Killed, 8 Injured in Largest-Scale School Shooting So Far This Year

By Denisa R. Superville — May 07, 2019 3 min read
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One student was killed and eight injured by gunfire at a Denver-area charter school Tuesday afternoon—the largest number of injuries in a school shooting so far this year, according to Education Week‘s school shooting tracker.

The shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch, a K-12 school of about 1,800 students, was also the 12th such incident at a school this year that has resulted in a death or injury. Very young children were seen being evacuated from the school with their hands on their heads, in a chilling scene reminiscent of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The student who died was an 18-year-old boy, Tony Spurlock, the sheriff of Douglas County, Colo., said late Tuesday. Some of the injured students were in critical condition at area hospitals.

The school is less than 10 miles from Columbine High School, where 20 years ago two high school students killed 12 students and a teacher.

Police arrested two students from the school in connection with the shooting, Spurlock said in a Tuesday afternoon press conference. The sheriff said at a later press conference that one of the suspects is an adult male, while the other is a juvenile and female. He said the two shooters had been able to get “deep inside” the school.

There was no school resource officer assigned to the school, but there was private security on the premises, Spurlock said.

A school resource officer was among the law enforcement personnel who responded once police were alerted that shots had been fired at the school, authorities said.

The shooting occurred just before 2 p.m. in the high school portion of the campus. Spurlock said the two suspects walked “deep inside” the school and “engaged” students in two separate locations.

The FBI was processing the crime scene, and, as of late Tuesday, no charges had been filed against the suspects.

Students were close to wrapping up the academic school year, with graduation scheduled for May 20th and the last day of school scheduled for May 23.


School Shootings Remain Statistically Rare

With two large-scale school shootings in 2018—17 killed in Parkland, Fla., and 10 killed in Santa Fe, Texas—public fears about school safety and gun violence are high. But the data show that, on the whole, schools are one of the safest places for children.

The shooting in Parkland last year set off a cascade of activism around gun-control—much of it driven by students themselves—and at times polarizing debate over how best to keep schools safe. In Florida and other states, lawmakers moved to put more armed police and school personnel in schools.

But most police who work in schools will never encounter an active shooter, as shootings in schools remain statistically rare.

Still, principals leading schools when such a tragic incident happens, often find a dearth of information and guidance to help them through the recovery process for their themselves, their students, staff, and communities and the mountains of decisions that need to be made in the aftermath.

Last month, the National Association of Secondary School Principals launched a support network to help principals who find themselves dealing with such tragedies by connecting them with others who have led schools during or after a school shooting.

Top photo: Officials guide students off a bus and into a recreation center where they were reunited with their parents after a shooting at a suburban Denver K-12 charter school Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo.--David Zalubowski/AP

Bottom photo: Parents gather in a circle to pray at a recreation center where students were reunited with their parents after a shooting at a suburban Denver K-12 charter school Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Highlands Ranch, Colo. --David Zalubowski/AP

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.