Security & Safety

New Open Source Database to Track School Shootings

A new open source database at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, being developed in partnership with the University of Texas at Dallas and Michigan State University, will track shootings at K–12 schools and analyze the factors involved in such attacks. The project is supported by a grant from the National Institute of Justice's Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, a research effort focused on identifying the root causes of school violence as well as developing and evaluating strategies for boosting school safety.
The data collected will span "all publicly known school shootings that resulted in at least one injury from 1990 to Dec. 31, 2016," according to a news announcement. That includes cases that resulted in injuries but no deaths; shootings on school grounds linked to domestic violence or workplace violence; and suicides involving a firearm. The project's main goals:

  • To "document the nature of the problem and clarify the types of shooting incidents occurring in schools";
  • To "provide a comprehensive understanding of the perpetrators of school shootings and test causal factors to assess if mass and non-mass shootings are comparable"; and
  • To "compare fatal shooting incidents to events where only nonfatal injuries resulted to identify intervention points that could be used to reduce the harm caused by shootings."

"Researchers will use quantitative, multivariate analyses and qualitative case studies to document where and when school violence occurs," the announcement explained. "They will highlight key incident and perpetrator characteristics to help law enforcement and school administrators differentiate between the kinds of school shootings that exist to aid in the development of prevention strategies and policy initiatives at local and federal levels."

"At this crucial time in our national discussion on school violence, John Jay College is proud to be at the forefront of academic research that will support local, state and national efforts to tackle this problem with evidence-based policies and interventions," said Karol Mason, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in a statement.

"The dearth of empirical data on school violence in the United States and the almost complete absence of quantitative data on perpetrators and incidents will be remedied by the production of this database and the analysis of data on the risk factors of school shootings," commented Joshua Freilich, a professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at John Jay College and principal investigator of the database project.

The researchers expect to complete the database in spring 2019. Future plans include the addition of data on "foiled plots" (planned shootings that were thwarted by police) as well as attacks on college campuses.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].