How to combat alarming pace of school gun violence

Despite pandemic lull, school violence skyrockets since latter part of 2021

Violence in schools is rising. With the exception of 2020, when schools were largely closed because of the Covid-19, the rate of school shootings has been increasing in recent years.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On Feb. 14, 2018, 17 people were killed and 17 others were injured when a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida.

In the four years since the deadliest high school massacre in U.S. history, violence in schools is rising.

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The big question is why? It’s interesting to note that during the first year of the pandemic, many of our children were learning from home.

Not surprisingly, while there was limited classroom activity, and most students were home learning remotely, school shootings declined. But looking at data compiled by Education Week, that reprieve was only temporary.

Education Week started tracking school shootings in 2018. There were 24 school shootings in 2018 and another 24 in 2019.

In 2020, there were 10. But in 2021, that number skyrocketed again to 34, despite many schools only being open in the latter part of the year. From August to December of 2021, there were 24 school shootings.

Since the start of 2022, there have already been 10 shootings at schools. That’s more than one a week since the start of the year.

WHEN AND WHERE: Education Week tracks school shootings across U.S.

Experts call that an alarming pace of school gun violence.

Those who study criminal activity say they have noticed a spike in violence in general and attribute it to two things: The pandemic and social unrest. And they say it’s trickling down to our children.

In an interview with Education Week, James A. Densley, a professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan State University, in St. Paul, Minnesota, who studies gun violence said, “It’s a combination of the pandemic; a lack of trust in our institutions, particularly law enforcement; the presence of guns; the toxic, divisive, contentious times we live in. They’re all interacting together.”

Psychologists say all those issues have created a “tsunami of mental health needs” in schools.

The answer may not be reacting to incidents but intervention and promoting wellness efforts.

Avi Astor, a school violence expert at UCLA puts it this way, the problems are cresting as teachers and administrators are ill-equipped to deal with them because of burnout, lack of staff and illness.

The problem is not necessarily too little funding, Astor said, “but the missing human capital -- teachers, specialists and staff who could help tackle the crisis of violence.”

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