It’s widely acknowledged that Federal school violence data is, at best, a very broad, lagging estimate of the field. Safety experts Kenneth Trump and Michael Dorn have exposed the data hodge-podge mess before several congressional hearings (over several years). It’s almost just accepted that the data is, and will be, “bad”. The issues of inter-rater reliability and variance in discretion between administrators are two root causes for this ongoing flawed data set. However, another variable appears to be muddying the interpretation of “school shooting” and “school violence” – and that is the event of a shooting that is proximal to a school, but unrelated to the school (not targeting staff/students). A shooting today outside of a Milwaukee School is an example of this issue. Click on the following link to read about it.
Per my review of the last 200 daily GOOGLE Alerts derived from school violence search terms (such as “violence” + “school” + “shooting”), these types of proximal shooting events appear to be increasing across the nation. What does this mean and how do we quantify this phenomena? First, what is the accepted definition of proximal? If it’s anything like “violence” then we know that there isn’t a standard definition of proximal as even the boundary (school zone) of a school is up for debate.
Is it of value to quantify a proximal shooting event? Probably, but remember, there are bigger fish to fry (obtaining some level of inter-rater reliability for school violence). Yet, if I were to quantify such events, I would focus on whether the event resulted in a school lockdown – a binary metric. This becomes tangible prevalence data that could also inform the frequency of practicing school lock down drills. If your school resides in tornado alley, it makes sense to conduct tornado drills more often than a school located in Alaska. Frequency of lockdowns could be useful to legislators (to determine priorities and funding for school safety) as it can be argued that when students are “locked down” teaching/learning is probably not occurring and therefore student academic outcomes are being compromised. One can readily show location and any trends – local, regional or national. Imagine what could be done with GIS overlay maps to display the exact “hot spots” for proximal school violence resulting in lockdowns? (Place community resources where they are most needed). Until the reporting of school violence can be accomplished with [greater] reliability, maybe it makes sense to at least report violence-triggered lockdowns?
In conclusion, today’s shooting in Milwaukee is an example of a growing trend in shootings proximal to schools. Should these events be measured, and if so, then should the event itself be tallied, or is it more practical (in consideration of student outcomes) to tally if the school was placed into lockdown due to a proximal violent event?