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School shootings surpass 2020 figures as students return to classrooms

The COVID pandemic reduced school shootings as nearly all schools switched to remote learning for part of 2020.
Credit: AP
A Forsyth County Sheriff directs law enforcement officers on the scene at Mount Tabor High School Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 in Winston-Salem, N.C. Authorities say one student was killed in a shooting at a North Carolina high school and a suspect has been taken into custody. (Walt Unks/The Winston-Salem Journal via AP)

School shootings–a bruise in U.S. school systems–are resurfacing after 2020 saw its lowest figure in the last three years.

In 2021, there have been 15 school shootings recorded, according to Education Week. Of those incidents, 20 people have been killed or injured. Four students were killed, reports say.

Broadly credited to the pandemic that shifted in-person learning to virtual, school shootings, or a situation where a firearm discharged on a school campus and resulted in a bullet wound, were significantly lower in 2020 than in 2019 and 2018. 

In 2020, there was a total of 10 school shootings that resulted in injuries or deaths, Education Week reports. Among those 10 incidents, three people were killed and nine were injured. The three people who were killed include an employee and two students.

A mass killing is defined as four or more dead, not including the shooter, according to the Congressional Research Service. None of the shootings in 2020 were considered to be mass shooting events.

Prior to the pandemic, there was a total of 49 school shootings during 2018 and 2019. Three of which were nationally known mass shootings that left multiple people dead: the Valentine's Day Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018, Santa Fe High School shooting in May 2018 and the Martin County High School shooting in January 2018. 

Experts who research mass killings say there are two major factors that contribute to the 2020 decline.

According to a report from the Associated Press, "most people avoided going out in public during coronavirus lockdowns, which meant fewer opportunities for slayings in workplaces or schools. Experts also say Americans were so focused on other tragedies that would-be gunmen were less likely to consider carrying out attacks."

Recently, two teens in Fort Myers were accused of planning a mass shooting at their middle school, according to a sheriff's office. A 13-year-old and 14-year-old talked about the idea of a "Columbine-style" school shooting for about a week, the Lee County Sheriff's Office reports. The two are being held in secure detention.

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