By: Teresa Mull
A new, eye-opening report on school shootings in the U.S. finds most of them never actually took place.
This spring the U.S. Education Department reported that in the 2015-2016 school year, “nearly 240 schools ... reported at least 1 incident involving a school-related shooting.” The number is far higher than most other estimates.
But NPR reached out to every one of those schools repeatedly over the course of three months and found that more than two-thirds of these reported incidents never happened. Child Trends, a nonpartisan nonprofit research organization, assisted NPR in analyzing data from the government's Civil Rights Data Collection.
We were able to confirm just 11 reported incidents, either directly with schools or through media reports.
In 161 cases, schools or districts attested that no incident took place or couldn't confirm one. In at least four cases, we found, something did happen, but it didn't meet the government's parameters for a shooting. About a quarter of schools didn’t respond to our inquiries.
NPR cites in its report an astounding instance of false reporting coming from the Ventura Unified School District in Southern California. The Civil Rights Data Collection, in the 2018 questionnaire it requires of every public school in the nation, reported 26 shootings taking place at Ventura. The school district’s superintendent, however, reported having no memory of any shootings happening during his 30-year tenure.
“I think someone pushed the wrong button,” assistant superintendent Jeff Davis told NPR.
“The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights received complaints about the wording and administration of this survey even before it went out,” NPR further repored, and though the DOE plans to “update some of these data later this fall…the department has no plans to republish the existing publication.”
Teresa Mull is editor of Gunpowder Magazine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.