School Climate & Safety

It’s Been 90 Years Since the Deadliest School Attack in U.S. History

By Evie Blad — May 18, 2017 1 min read
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The deadliest school attack in U.S. history wasn’t a shooting; it was a bombing. And it happened 90 years ago.

On May 18, 1927, Andrew Kehoe blew up the Bath Consolidated School in Bath Township, Mich., with hundreds of pounds of dynamite. Forty-five people died, including 38 children and Kehoe himself.

The disaster is a reminder that concerns about school violence existed long before the calls to action on school shootings in recent decades.

Kehoe was a farmer and a disgruntled school board member who was upset about the tax increases necessary to support the consolidation of the township’s one-room schoolhouses, Mlive.com explained.

“As a school trustee who was also a talented electrician and mechanic, Kehoe spent plenty of time in the bowels of the building and, it became apparent later, he was spending part of that time stashing dynamite in various nooks and crannies—900 pounds of dynamite in all,” the paper reports.

The disaster was actually multiple explosions. The first blast tore through a wing of the building in the morning. As adults scrambled to recover children from the rubble, Kehoe pulled up in his pick-up truck and set off another blast. And it could have been worse. During the recovery effort, rescuers found hundreds of pounds of additional dynamite that had failed to explode, according to Mlive.com.

A sign was later found on Kehoe’s fence that said “criminals are made, not born.”

The Lansing State Journal talked to survivors of the disaster.

You can listen to a 2009 NPR interview with some of the bombing’s survivors here.

While Bath is the deadliest attack, the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. are the deadliest K-12 shooting in U.S. history. Today, Newtown and Columbine are touch points in school safety conversations. But, before them, there was Bath. After the Columbine High School shootings, Education Week talked to people in Bath about how modern school tragedies stir up memories of the bombings.


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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.