Center for Injury Research and Prevention

School Shootings

It is difficult for most of us to understand how anyone-- regardless of their age, relationships, or grievance-- could shoot a child or youth especially on school grounds.

The most common shootings on school grounds rarely involve large numbers of victims, but even a shooting of just one student at school has ramifications far beyond those directly involved. Students and staff that witness school shootings are likely to suffer from traumatic stress symptoms, become anxious or depressed and have general concerns about their safety. While many witnesses will have temporary symptoms, others will be symptomatic for a much longer period of time and even develop chronic psychiatric disorders. Even short-term impairments can cause severe distress and have profound effects on academic achievement and the social and emotional growth of impacted students. 

Perhaps the most disturbing effect of a school shooting is the feeling of on-going danger that permeates schools where they have occurred. The school’s climate and sense of community are profoundly damaged.

Statistically, smaller scale shootings tend to occur in schools in neighborhoods already besieged by violence and where schools are commonly viewed as a “safe haven” within more dangerous areas. When external violence invades the school, the community loses that safe sanctuary for learning and camaraderie.

In addition, a school shooting has impact beyond the schools and those attending or working there. Regardless of whether a shooting occurs in a community with high crime and violence or in a community that is historically safe and stable, school shootings have lasting ramifications for each family and also impact relationships among community members including parents, the school, law enforcement and local government.

This section provides you with basic facts, describes the complex set of factors that commonly contribute to mass shootings, and suggests ways to address them in the United States-- with a goal that we all work together to develop and implement comprehensive effective strategies that will reduce the toll of these tragic events.

More About School Shooting Events

Mass Shootings in Schools

Preventing School Shooting Events

Crisis Management Following a School Shooting

Tips for Parents on Talking to Children Exposed to Violent Events

Recommended Reading

Skills for Psychological Recovery: Field Operations Guide. Berkowitz, S., Bryant, R., Brymer, M., Hamblen, J., Jacobs, A., Layne, C., Macy, R., Osofsky, H., Pynoos, R., Ruzek, J., Steinberg, A., Vernberg, E., & Watson, P. (2010). The National Center for PTSD & the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

Psychological first aid for schools: Field operations guide, 2nd Edition. Brymer M., Taylor M., Escudero P., Jacobs A., Kronenberg M., Macy R., Mock L., Payne L., Pynoos R., & Vogel J (2012). Los Angeles: National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

Los Angeles Unified School District Crisis Response Program

UCLA School Mental Health Project