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How Safe Are Schools?

In the wake of the spate of highly publicized school shootings from late 1997 through April 1999, I decided to try to find out whether schools and teens were as dangerous as our media have begun to make them appear.  My quest took me to many internet sites.  I've listed the most interesting here.  Hopefully you'll find them as enlightening as I did.

If you are interested primarily in the list of facts that I prepared, click here.

Looking for a way to make your school safer and better?  Read Joel Achenbach's piece in The Washington Post (March 26, 2001).

  1. The Washington Post and ABC News commissioned a poll of parents and students in the days after the Littleton, Colorado massacre (April 20, 1999) to find out how they felt about their own schools.

  1. On June 17, 1999, The Los Angeles Times reported a poll focused on the same issues as the Washington Post/ABC News Poll above.   The results were quite different.
  1. On October 20, 1999, The New York Times published its most recent poll of American teens on school safety issues.  The results are illuminating.  Please note that access to material on The New York Times web site requires a free registration.  Here are links to the several parts of the report.
  1. Mike Males has looked long and hard at this and related questions.  He has published his findings in three books and numerous articles.  These links will show you what he found.
  1. Mike's books

Click here to read Jon Katz' review in Wired online

  1. Mike's online articles
  1. Much newspaper ink (and many online pixels) were devoted to searching for lessons in the shootings.  Here are links to articles I found worthy of particular note.
  1. Two California educators (Howard Haas and Alex Aitcheson) quit their jobs to drive around the country to talk to kids and to try to find out "Why Kids Kill".  From their interviews they produced a video to show lawmakers and other interested adults.  On October 18, 1999, Haas and Aitcheson were interviewed on NPR's All Things Considered.  This interview is available online in RealAudio format.  To hear it, you'll need to have the RealAudio plug-in installed for your browser.  To listen to the interview, click here, then click the Listen button.
  2. On May 20, 1999, exactly one month to the day after the Littleton, Colorado shooting, a teen in Conyers, Georgia opened fire at Heritage High School, wounding several students.  A production team for the PBS documentary series Frontline was in Conyers at the time.  They were interviewing teens and their parents about a syphilis outbreak that had taken place among very young teens there in 1996.  The program they produced, The Lost Children of Rockdale County, aired on October 19, 1999.  Click here to read the transcript.
  3. On January, 18, 2000, Frontline broadcast a riveting look into the mind of one of the school shooters - Kip Kinkel.  It is powerful and disturbing, not for the feint of heart.  Its title - The Killer at Thurston HighClick here to read the transcript.
  4. From my research, I prepared a set of Student Safety Facts using the following sources.
  1. The Statistical Abstract of the United States 1998
    Section 2: Vital Statistics (Table #150: Suicides by Race, Age and Method: 1980 to 1995)
    Section 4: Education (Tables 255 and 270)
  2. The National Center for Education Statistics

Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 1998
Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 1999

Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2004
Index of publications on school safety issues

  1. the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports
  2. Facts about school violence from the Centers for Disease Control (April 21, 1999)
  3. School House Hype: School shootings and the real risks kids face in America
  1. The last thing I did was examine the Leading Causes of Death (and overall probabilities of dying) in the U.S.  To do this I looked at Section 2, Table 141 in The Statistical Abstract of the United States 1998Here I found that
  1. In April 2000, the first anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School, many thoughtful items appeared.  Here are the ones I found most important and useful.

This discussion is available online in RealAudio format.  To hear it, you'll need to have the RealAudio plug-in installed for your browser.

  • PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
  1. Stories through April 20, 1999
  2. Stories after April 20, 1999
  3. the first year anniversary, April 20, 2000

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original web posting: Tuesday, May 4, 1999
last modified: Tuesday, April 07, 2009