Loosey-Goosey School Shooting Data – What Never Happened

The gun-stunner of the week is no surprise to GOC:  the vast majority of school shootings never even happened.

The big surprise, however, is where the data comes from:  the normally left-of-center NPR, but they deserve some kudos for reporting it because this certainly doesn’t fit the media’s general narrative on the frequency of school shootings.

In the article “The School Shootings that Weren’t” Anya Kamenetz reveals “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…”

Believe it or not, NPR was only able to confirm 11 incidents.  In 161 cases, it was concluded that no such event had occurred.  Plus, the research found where something had actually happened, the incidents didn’t meet government criteria for what accounts as a “shooting.”

But wait!  Haven’t these statistics been widely reported? Of course they have…

Collection of this data began in 1968, when the federal Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (Civil Rights Data Collection-CRDC), required all public schools to complete a survey on a variety of issues every two years.  The results are then used to drive school policies, and the most recent data – which included new questions on firearms – was published in Spring of 2018.  In the words of an assistant superintendent in the Ventura County School District, “I think someone pushed the wrong button.”

We think a lot of “someone’s” pushed the wrong button.

“When we’re talking about such an important and rare event, [this] amount of data error could be very meaningful,” says Deborah Temkin, a researcher and program director at Child Trends, who assisted with the NPR research.

In response to the question “Has there been at least one incident at your school that involved a shooting (any discharge of a weapon at school-sponsored events or on school buses, regardless of whether anyone was hurt)?” the answer was “nearly 240 schools (0.2 percent of all schools).” 

Here’s a sampling of the blunders:

  • CRDC reported 26 shootings within the Ventura Unified School District in Southern California, but the outgoing superintendent, with almost 30 years under his belt “doesn’t remember any shooting.
  • Cleveland Metropolitan School District was reported by the CRDC as having 37 incidents. In actuality, however, 37 was the number of schools who had reported “possession of a knife or a firearm.” There was evidently some confusion as the 37 number was entered incorrectly on the wrong line, given the form’s previous question.
  • The CRDC also indicates there were “four shootings among the 16 schools of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District in California.” However, a spokeswoman for the district says that “going back 20-plus years,” no one can remember any incident involving a firearm.
  • The Nassau County School District in Florida reported to NPR that one supposed school shooting was actually a middle schooler who had simply posted a picture of himself holding a firearm. This was listed as a school shooting.

Unfortunately, the discrepancies don’t just end there – other instances of confusion on how to report firearm-related situations are evident as well.  What’s more, the article also revealed a related investigation conducted by the ACLU of Southern California that showed confirmation of “fewer than a dozen of the incidents in the government’s report, while 59 percent were confirmed errors.”

And we should have faith in government data collection, why?

The fact that this was an NPR article makes this more difficult for the mainstream media and their political comrades to ignore, but not for those of us fighting for media accuracy.  At the risk of beating a dead horse, GOC is very familiar with statistical misrepresentations (otherwise known as lies) when it comes to anything 2nd Amendment-related.  Heck, it wasn’t all that long ago that Gavin Newsom hollered from his San Francisco high-rise that there were more mass shootings in one year than there were days.  And, Everytown for Gun Safety continues to use ridiculous situations as evidence of school “gun violence” – such as a non-injury episode where “gunshots, most likely fired from off campus, hit a campus building window”.

For anyone to have a productive dialogue on the topic of guns and violence, there must be some standards of definition.  Such loosey-goosey interpretations on what is a shooting and who is a victim – whether in a school setting or not – undermines the conversation and leads to bad – not to mention, ineffective and dangerous public policy.

To read the full article, “The School Shootings that Weren’t” by Anya Kamenetz, click here.