Making Sense of New FBI Statistics on Active Shooter Incidents and What They Mean for Your School Part 1

FBI stats on active shooter incidents

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In May 2022, the FBI released a report reviewing active shooter incidents in 2021. These new statistics are especially salient given the recent school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. With 21 casualties, the Uvalde shooting has already surpassed 2021’s most deadly incident, in which 10 people were killed. In the wake of this senseless violence, parents, teachers, and administrators are all understandably concerned about the health and well-being of their students. Here is what stakeholders in student safety can take away from the FBI’s latest report to help create a safer learning environment in their district. 

Active Shooter Incidents: 2021 vs. 2022

The FBI defines an active shooter incident as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” 61 incidents of gun violence met these criteria in 2021, according to the new report. The incidents took place across 30 different states, making the epidemic of gun violence genuinely universal. 

The report demonstrates that the incidence of active shooter incidents is growing significantly. Over the past four years, active shooter incidents have increased by 96.8%. 2021 was an especially deadly year: the year represented the highest death toll from active shooter incidents since 2017 

Active Shooter Incidents at School

With so many of these active shooter incidents taking place at school, parents, students, and education professionals are facing legitimate safety concerns. Since 2018, there have been 119 shootings taking place on school grounds.  

According to the FBI report, two of the 61 active shooter incidents in 2021 occurred at school. In 2021, school shootings resulted in the death of four students and the wounding of eight more. These numbers may be lower than usual due to the continuation of distance learning procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic, which kept students at home.  

As many schools returned to fully in-person learning in 2022, we have already seen a dramatic increase in gun violence on school grounds. In the first five months of 2022, there have already been at least 27 active shooter incidents in schools, killing 24 children and three adults. This includes the recent shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which was the deadliest school shooting since the 2012 Sandy Hook tragedy.  

What We Know About School Shootings in 2021

The FBI designated two school shootings as active shooter incidents in 2021. These incidents took place at Rigby Middle School in Rigby, Idaho, and at Oxford High School in Oxford, Michigan. So, what can we learn about student safety from 2021? Let’s review what we know about these school shootings from the recent FBI report. 

  1. Rigby Middle School (Rigby, Idaho)

On May 6, 2021, a sixth-grade student with a handgun began shooting inside and outside Rigby Middle School, wounding two students and one staff member. The student was disarmed and restrained by a teacher before being apprehended by law enforcement. 

The Rigby Middle School shooting was the only active shooter incident in 2021 perpetrated by a female shooter. At just 12 years old, the student was also the youngest shooter to perpetrate an active shooter incident in 2021. 

Months later, in September 2021, the Idaho Department of Education released a report analyzing the shooting at Rigby Middle School. The report concluded that students had observed concerning behaviors in the shooter prior to the incident, none of which were reported to staff members until after the incident. 

The incident at Rigby Middle School makes a compelling case for early intervention. One of the recommendations made by the Idaho Department of Education was to implement digital reporting technologies for both students and staff to anonymously report concerning changes in behavior and appearance before they become a legitimate safety threat. 

  1. Oxford High School (Oxford, Michigan)

On November 30, 2021, a 15-year-old male student began shooting inside Oxford High School with a handgun, wounding two students and one staff member. The student was apprehended by law enforcement at the scene. 

Both the perpetrator and the school district will face litigation for the incident. Oxford Community Schools has declined to conduct an independent investigation until all criminal and civil proceedings are resolved. Experts say this could take years. 

Without an investigation, there is still much we don’t know about what happened at Oxford High School in November 2021. Even so, the Oxford High School shooting exemplifies the powerful toll such incidents of violence take on students, parents, and the community.  

Since the shooting, Oxford High School students have organized memorials and protests to honor their classmates and to stand with their fellow students in Uvalde, Texas. The impact of the incident on these students remains clear to this day. 

Stay tuned for Part Two: Active Shooter Incidents and Student Mental Health. 

Related Resources

Guide to K-12 Student Wellbeing
Strategies to Recognize, Document, and Support Students in Distress
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Guide to K-12 Student Wellbeing

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