The Threat of Gun Violence in America’s High Schools

by John McDonald

As the nation marks the 20th anniversary of the tragedy at Columbine High School, new research from the UCLA Institute for Democracy Education and Access makes clear that the threat of gun violence is all too real for students and educators in American high schools. In the national survey, more principals report being affected by the threat of gun violence than any other challenge.

Key Findings Include

  • More than nine in ten principals say their school has faced problems such as students concerns about the threat of gun violence in school or the surrounding community, lost focus in class or missed school time due to concerns with gun violence, and, parent and community member concerns about the threat of gun violence in the school or surrounding community.
  • Principals from California to Connecticut say that, in comparison with all other challenges, this topic (gun violence) “has captured the most attention,” represents the “largest stress,” and poses the “gravest concerns.”
  • The threat of gun violence impacts schools across all demographic and regional categories. Schools with large proportions of students of color have been affected most.
  • Principals dedicate more time addressing problems associated with the threats of gun violence than any other challenge they currently face. On average, principals who report any impact from gun violence spend more than two hours per week addressing the issue.
  • One in five principals interviewed recount incidents involving firearms on campus.
  • One in three principals interviewed report that their school received threats of mass shootings, bombings, or both at some point during the previous school year. Many of these threats occurred in the days following the Parkland shooting.
  • Principals say they also spend considerable time and energy addressing stress and anxiety and talking with various constituencies about the problem.
  • Almost all principals in the survey report that they seek to reduce student concerns by talking to them and connecting them with counseling services.
  • Principals are also spending time creating conditions to prevent and respond to school shootings.
  • Most principals interviewed have focused their efforts to prevent gun violence on “hardening” their school campus and many schools have also moved to limit entry and exit to one “secure” site on campus.

For more information and  comments from principals about how the issue of gun violence is effecting their jobs, their schools and their students please see the report, School and Society in the Age of Trump.   The section on the threat of gun violence starts on page 37.