Guns in Schools Pose Challenges to Educators, Students and Parents

The school safety topics that have dominated the media over the past ten to fifteen years have included:

  • School shootings
  • Schools and terrorism
  • Bullying
  • Suicides relating to bullying at school

There has been considerable distortion of each of these four topics in the media and the public and often educators frequently have a number of common misconceptions including:

  • The misconception that school shootings are a new phenomenon
  • The false notion that the school homicide rate has increased in the United States
  • The notion that school shootings are a uniquely American phenomenon
  • The mistaken impression that most school weapons assaults involve guns and active shooter situations
  • The false assumption that most school shootings are caused by bullying
  • The inaccurate perception that school bullying is the primary driving force in many student suicides
  • The idea that student suicides where bullying is a factor are a new phenomenon
  • The false notion that school violence is a public school issue that does not affect non-public schools

While there are many other common myths that are also frequently driven by the way the media covers events.  These misconceptions are also heavily influenced by people who are quoted by the media as experts and who present at conferences and seminars on school safety whose information is not grounded in careful research.  For example, there are numerous peer review articles, books and conference presentations that have included as factual assertions information about bullying, the “trench-coat mafia” and other inaccurate depictions relating to the Columbine High School shooting and bombing attack.  Careful research by author Dave Cullen and personal conversations I have had with dozens of students, parents, staff and public safety officials who were directly involved provide a very solid argument that a variety of urban legends from this terrible event have become accepted as fact by many people.

We urge educators, parents, students and community partners who want to make schools safer to remain grounded and to be pragmatic when they read or hear media accounts, books, articles and conference presentations.  There is much good information in all of these venues but unfortunately there is also a great deal of dangerous disinformation in the air on these important but emotionally charged topics. 


About Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. The author of 27 books on school safety, Michael’s campus safety work has taken him to 11 countries over the past 34 years.