The Washington Post has spent years tracking how many children have been exposed to gun violence in school since the Columbine High massacre in 1999. Beyond the dead and wounded, children who witness the violence or cower behind locked doors to hide from it can be profoundly traumatized. The federal government does not track school shootings. The newspaper pieced together numbers from news articles, open-source databases, law enforcement reports and calls to schools and police departments. While school shootings remain rare, there were more in 2021 — 42 — than in any year since 1999. This year, there have been at least 24 acts of gun violence on K-12 campuses during the school day. The count stands at more than 311,000 children at 331 schools.
At least 185 children, educators and other people have been killed in assaults, and another 369 have been injured. Black students make up 16.6 percent of the school population, but they experience school shootings at twice that rate. Where the source of the gun could be determined, more than 85 percent of shooters brought them from their own homes or obtained them from friends or relatives. The ranks of school shooters include a six-year-old boy, who killed a classmate after saying he didn’t like her, and a 15-year-old girl, who did the same to a friend for rejecting her romantic overtures. Seven in 10 shooters were under 18, which means that — often because of an adult’s negligence — dozens of children had access to deadly weapons.