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About this story
The Washington Post spent a year determining how many children have been affected by school shootings, beyond just those killed or injured. To do that, reporters attempted to identify every act of gunfire at a primary or secondary school during school hours since the Columbine High massacre on April 20, 1999. Using Nexis, news articles, open-source databases, law enforcement reports, information from school websites, and calls to schools and police departments, The Post reviewed more than 1,000 alleged incidents, but counted only those that happened on campuses immediately before, during or just after classes.
Shootings at after-hours events, accidental discharges that caused no injuries to anyone other than the person handling the gun, and suicides that occurred privately or posed no threat to other children were excluded. Gunfire at colleges and universities, which affects young adults rather than kids, also was not counted.
After finding more than 200 incidents of gun violence that met The Post’s criteria, reporters organized them in a database for analysis. Because the federal government does not track school shootings, it’s possible that the database does not contain every incident that would qualify.
To calculate how many children were exposed to gunfire in each school shooting, The Post relied on enrollment figures and demographic information from the U.S. Education Department, including the Common Core of Data and the Private School Universe Survey. The analysis used attendance figures from the year of the shooting for the vast majority of the schools.
The Post’s database is updated regularly as school shootings are reported and as facts emerge about individual cases. The Post is seeking assistance in making the database as comprehensive as possible. To provide information about school shootings since Columbine that fit The Post’s definition, send us an email at email@example.com.