Emergency Preparedness, Emerging Issues in Security, Facility Security

Oxford High Shooting Tragedy Highlights ‘Significant Increase’ in School Violence

The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) expressed its sincere condolences to the Oxford, Mich., community in the wake of the recent tragic shooting at Oxford High School. The organization of school resource officers (SROs)—sworn law enforcement officers assigned to work in schools—also offered information it believes will help schools throughout the country prevent or mitigate future school violence.

While shootings in schools are rare, NASRO said many signs indicate a “significant increase” in school violence during the 2021-2022 academic year:

  • Between Aug. 1 and Nov. 30, 2021, at least 38 incidents of gunfire on school campuses resulted in death or injury, according to data compiled by the nonprofit organization Everytown for Gun Safety and analyzed by NASRO. During the same period in 2019, Everytown for Gun Safety recorded 14 such incidents.
  • Between Aug. 1 and Nov. 30, 2021, at least 136 incidents occurred when a gun was brandished, was fired. or a bullet hit school property for any reason, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database compiled by the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS). During the same period in 2019, the CHDS database recorded 51 such incidents.
  • Since Jan. 1, 28 school shootings have occurred in the U.S., killing 10 people and injuring another 47, according to a list compiled by Education Week. Of this year’s shootings, 20 occurred since Aug. 1, the magazine reports.
  • Since the beginning of the 2021 school year, daily news reports have indicated fights between students, many of which required law enforcement intervention and some of which resulted in significant injuries.
  • Every school day, news outlets around the U.S. report students found in possession of firearms on campuses. These incidents are occurring in elementary, middle, and high schools.

“These statistics are unfortunately not a surprise,” said Mo Canady, NASRO’s executive director.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned in a May bulletin that violence might increase when students returned to school after the pandemic’s shutdowns. The department noted risk factors including increased isolation during online or hybrid education and students’ inability to receive mental health services they would normally get at school. In addition, some students were stuck in abusive homes while schools were closed, Canady adds.

But Canady said there are ways schools and communities can prevent or mitigate violence in schools.

“Schools should create and deploy threat assessment and management teams that identify students of concern, assess the risk of those students engaging in violence or other harmful activities, and deliver intervention strategies to manage those risks,” Canady said. “Such teams should include carefully selected, specifically trained SROs. The goal is to identify students in distress before their behavior escalates to dangerous levels.”

Well-founded SRO programs that adhere to nationally accepted best practices help prevent school violence, Canady said. “SROs develop trusting relationships with students that encourage them to report important warning signs,” he added.

Canady said that it is impossible to prevent all school violence, regardless of how well schools follow recommendations. When violence cannot be prevented, Canady said, SROs can respond to, and end it, more quickly and more effectively than school staff members or police who respond from off campus.

“The sooner a law enforcement officer confronts an attacker, the sooner the attack can be stopped, thus reducing the number of victims,” Canady added.