It’s only the start of April, and 74 people have been killed or injured by guns at American schools this year (NPR). As of 2020, firearms became the leading cause of death among U.S. children ages 19 years and younger (KFF). As our communities continue to reel over the recent school shooting at Covenant School, attention to the types of victims of gun violence is left out of discussions.
In February, the school shooting at Michigan State University made national headlines, but the shooting at Westinghouse Academy, a high school in a historically Black neighborhood in Pittsburgh, did not (The Root). A week before the shooting in Nashville, a child was killed, and another one was injured in a school shooting in Arlington, Texas (Buzzfeed).
• Support local, community-led initiatives to reduce gun violence in your community. Some recommendations include Baton Rouge Community Street Team in Louisiana, GoodKidsMadCity in Baltimore, and the Community Based Public Safety Collective, which works nationally.
• Sign the Everytown petition to hold the gun industry accountable for youth death.
• Donate to the The K-12 School Shooting Database to help accurate data collection of gun violence in schools.
Research by the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety found that, in instances in which it was able to identify the racial composition of the school, 2 in 3 shootings in the U.S. occurred in majority-minority schools. In their analysis, BuzzFeed found that since Sandy Hook 10 years ago, half of the students and teachers killed on campus were Black or Latine (Buzzfeed). And since the pandemic, the racial disparities among young shooting victims have widened, with Black children being 100 times more likely to be shot than white children (The Trace).
These stats shouldn’t be surprising considering the disproportionate amount of gun violence affecting Black and Latine communities. Black Americans are 10 times more likely than white Americans to die by gun homicide. And Hispanic youth represent 4% of the population yet are victims in 8% of all gun homicides (Center for American Progress). With gun violence happening in a community, it’s unsurprising that it would persist in its schools, too.
Part of the skewed perception around school shootings is what’s covered by the media. Most of the stories we hear center on white victims. This doesn’t just center a smaller population of those impacted but continues to normalize gun violence in Black and Brown communities—an issue that must be addressed for youth safety in and out of schools. In addition, many schools with predominantly Black and Brown student enrollment are overpoliced, contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline and reinforcing stereotypes of criminality against Black and Brown youth. School shootings still happen in these schools despite an increase in law enforcement. That should help to dismantle the notion that policing is the answer, but they’re rarely heard by the public.
Another reason we see a lack of accountability is how school shootings are recorded. The Washington Post has a running database that highlights the number of shootings that happen on school grounds during the school day (Washington Post). The K-12 School Shooting Database, an independent research project, tracks shootings that occur outside of school hours, gang shootings, suicides, and accidents, which helps to portray a larger view of how gun violence ebbs from the surrounding community (NPR). However, there is currently no federal database with specifics of shootings that occur in schools.
No child should die in the classroom or because of lax legislation on gun control and ownership in our country. But to truly put an end to gun violence, we can’t keep viewing them as one-off random acts of violence. Instead, we must address that gun violence is present in many children’s lives—both in and out of the classroom—and start to address the broader community issues that contribute to it. That’s why the work of local community-led initiatives is so critical. Unlike “thoughts and prayers” and inaction from state and federal government, these initiatives do their best to address the factors contributing to violence and implement programming and practices to protect youth.
• 74 people have been killed or injured by gun violence at American schools this year.
• Students of color are more likely to experience a school shooting but are left out of conversations on gun violence.
• To fully address gun violence, we must address how it impacts students both in and out of the classroom and center community-based initiatives that create comprehensive change.