More than 370,000 U.S. students have experienced gun violence since the Columbine massacre 25 years ago. As we near the close of another academic year, we’d love to report that the safety of students across America has improved since then – but sadly, not much has changed. In fact, it’s gotten worse, with incidents climbing steadily over the last four years to a total of nearly 350 reported events in 2023.

While the numbers remain bleak, the learnings these incidents have provided could prove to have an impact on turning things around for K-12 schools, colleges, and universities across the country.




A Deeper Dive Into Campus Safety

As a preeminent authority on campus safety and school gun violence, David Riedman offers continual statistical insights through the K-12 School Shooting Database. When taking a look at his research, several commonalities stand out that highlight not only the need for tougher security measures, but also a focus on enhanced preparedness training.

For example, while many schools are trained to handle incidents that occur within the school walls, statistics suggest that most school shootings take place in the parking lot or elsewhere outside the building’s perimeter. Additionally, studies have shown that most incidents occur on the margins of the day, in the morning as students arrive, in the afternoon after the final bell, or during evening athletic events.

In response, some school districts are adjusting by boosting security and police presence during those times, or adapting site planning with changes in architecture, lighting, landscaping, and wayfinding that can minimize opportunity and discourage potential assailants. But are these tactics enough without updated training reflective of the risks associated with contiguous open spaces? For most schools, a proper risk assessment would show that students and staff need supplemental guidance on how to identify threats and respond to incidents in these open spaces.

Additionally, Riedman’s research notes that while the public often associates school shootings with outside random actors, most incidents arise internally from unresolved disputes that escalate to violence. Educating teachers and administrators on identifying key behavioral indicators or warning signs, and how to utilize de-escalation techniques could also prove immensely valuable in any campus preparedness plan.

Changing Our Trajectory

In 2020, guns overtook vehicle crashes as the number one cause of death among children 18 and under – the continued reality of school violence is a big reason why. If we are to enact real change, it’s vital that we use expert analysis like Riedman’s to formulate plans that can help communities prevent, mitigate, and respond to this ongoing threat. It’s incumbent upon educators and security officials to raise awareness and take advantage of this knowledge to forge a better, safer path forward.

With expertise including Run-Hide-Fight, active shooter preparedness and response, situational awareness, de-escalation techniques, and more, The Power of Preparedness provides critical guidance that can save lives. Contact us to learn more.