This week, a CBS News story titled, March 2020 was the first March without a school shooting in the U.S. since 2002, caught my attention. This article says, March 2020 was the first March in nearly two decades without a school shooting in U.S. Since early March, schools have been closed as a prevention measure to slow the spread of coronavirus. The article uses data from the National School Safety Center and National School Safety and Security Services to confirm their claim. My immediate reaction to this story was amazement. However, one always has to be careful when it comes news, especially when they involve statistics, so I checked the claim out.
Snopes describes itself as the internet’s definitive fact-checking resource. Addressing the claim that March 2020 was the first March without a school shooting in the U.S. since 2002, it says what’s true is according to one government database, the U.S. has had at least one shooting on K-12 school properties every March from 2003 through 2009, and every March since (but not including) 2010. What’s False is that the way the various U.S. government agencies and organizations define a “school shooting” as definitions vary greatly, making any statistical claims challenging. Also, by the standards of one key government database, the U.S. had eight — not zero — school shootings in March 2020.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Criminology explains the problem this way.
The threshold of 4 or more deaths is arbitrary, but there are exclusions. For example, if 10 people are shot but only 2 die, the incident is not a mass shooting. Homicides by other means also are not counted. If 5 people are purposely run down and killed by an individual driving motor vehicle, the deaths do not count because a firearm is not involved.
The data used by the CBS article from the National School Safety Center and National School Safety and Security Services used the definition; school-associated violent deaths are homicides, suicides, or other violent, non-accidental deaths in the United States in which a fatal injury occurs. So, if the definition used is one or more deaths resulting from shootings, then it is possible March 2020 was the first March without a school shooting in the U.S. since 2002. However, Snopes says by the standards of one key government database, the U.S. had eight school shootings in March 2020 which would mean this claim is false.
To me people quibbling about what defines a school shooting, and how many people must die to qualify, is ridiculous. One person dying is one too many. For me, what is more important is why school shootings happen. Obviously, one reason is guns are readily available in the U.S, but there are also emotional and psychological reasons. In other words, mental health is a big factor.
During my school author talks about my book, A Shattered New Start, I talked about a Colorado Sun article titled, Secret Service study: Most school shooters were badly bullied, showed warning signs. This article said that according to a U.S. Secret Service study, most students who committed deadly school assaults over the past decade were badly bullied, and had a history of disciplinary trouble.
PsychCentral’s article, Bullies More Likely to Have Mental Disorder, says bullying could be a component of a mental disorder, according to a study. After analyzing responses from a parent survey, the researchers found that those considered bullies were more than twice as likely to experience depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder (ADD or ADHD).
The article, How does bullying affect health and well-being? by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services says,
Bullying can affect physical and emotional health, both in the short term and later in life. It can lead to physical injury, social problems, emotional problems, and even death. Those who are bullied are at increased risk for mental health problems, headaches, and problems adjusting to school. Bullying also can cause long-term damage to self-esteem.
The biggest issues, in my view, are emotional and mental health problems. These issues create bullies and emotionally damaged victims. Why are there school shootings? Namely bullying. Why is there bullying? Emotional and mentally unhealthy people. Would it be helpful to have one agreed upon definition of a school shooting? Yes. Would school shootings decrease if weapons were unavailable, or at least difficult to get? Yes. What would likely make the biggest impact on school shooting statistics is creating a mentally and emotionally healthy society.
Self-help writer, Edmond Mbiaka, says;
“Let integrity, humility, kindness, compassion, peace, and unity follow you wherever you go. We still have a chance at making this world a better place for us and our future generations. Stop Complaining about all the negativity in this world and start contributing more positive words, decisions, and actions to it.”
When we start caring for others, and being kind, compassionate, generous, and treating everyone as an equal, then we’ll start seeing less mental illness, less bullying, and less school shootings. Or to make it simple! Follow the Golden Rule which says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As I’ve said in many of my previous posts, maybe this pandemic is the Universe’s way of transforming the world into one that is simpler, kinder, more compassionate, and more caring. On April 18th , my wife and I watched One World: Together at Home, where more than 70 artists and celebrities gathered around the world for a virtual concert, to honour and celebrate healthcare workers who are fighting against the coronavirus pandemic. I truly felt part of a global village. The entire world is in this together. The world will only conquer this disease by us working together as a human family. We are one!