WASHINGTON (7News) — The prevailing notion that most school shootings happen within school buildings while kids are in classrooms is not true.
“Even though we have a conceptual understanding of a school shooting being something like Parkland or something like Sandy Hook where students are sitting in a classroom and a shooter enters their classroom, that’s extraordinarily rare,” said David Riedman, creator of the K-12 school shooting database.
Riedman’s school shooting database includes data detailing 2,298 school shootings across the U.S. since 1970. It reveals mass shootings inside school buildings are not typical. Yet, the misconception fuels pressure on school leaders to invest in security solutions designed to stop the most horrific incidents.
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“Schools are one of the lowest places that these mass attacks happen. Far outweighed by malls, theaters, concerts, airports, other places like that. Schools don’t rank in the top five of that,” Charles County Public Schools Security Director Jason Stoddard said.
Stoddard, recently invested $207,000 in 300 gun-detecting security cameras, making Charles County schools the first district in Maryland to implement the technology. State grant money currently covers the cameras and their software license costs. However, after two years, the grant funding and software license expire, shifting the financial burden to the school's budget.
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Out of the 166 school shootings in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia since 1970, 106 incidents occurred outside school buildings but close enough to them to be classified as school shootings. Stoddard argues a significant portion of these "school shootings" are community gun violence that spills onto school property.
When most people hear ‘school shooting’ they think of a mass violence attack. They’re not thinking of community gun violence that has leaked into a school,” Stoddard said.
Lobbying records show the American security industry pushing for more state and federal grant money for school security. Internal industry research obtained by 7News claims the physical security market in education presents a multi-billion dollar revenue opportunity. The report highlights that unauthorized access, risks to staff safety, student violence and lone-wolf attacks are among the threats likely to generate sales.
“We talk about school shootings, these are relatively low frequency but high consequence events. It would be unbalanced to pursue only solutions that are aimed at a mass shooting event only,” Government Relations Director for the Security Industry Association, Jake Parker said.
In 2022, nearly $72 million in one-time federal grant money was distributed to 235 school districts nationwide. That figure doesn’t include millions in individual state grants.