2018 The University of Florida Award for Investigative Data Journalism, Large Newsroom finalist

Scarred by School Shootings

The number of students who have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine


John Woodrow Cox, Steven Rich, Allyson Chiu, John Muyskens, Monica Ulmanu, Courtney Kan, Matthew Callahan, Gabriel Florit

The Washington Post

The University of Florida Award for Investigative Data Journalism, Large Newsroom


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About the Project

Last year The Washington Post set out to determine how many children have been exposed to gunfire in school since the 1999 Columbine High massacre.

It was a complicated undertaking that ultimately required hundreds of hours of work by three reporters: John Woodrow Cox, Steven Rich and Alyson Chiu. They combed through news articles, open-source databases and law enforcement reports, then made dozens of calls to schools and police departments.

Our methodology was unique and groundbreaking. In analyzing school shootings, The Post defined them far more narrowly than others, counting only incidents that happened during school hours to pinpoint the number of students who were shaken by them.
We discovered that more than 215,000 children have experienced gun violence at 217 primary and secondary schools. We also found that targeted shootings are far more common than indiscriminate slaughter.

Though mass shootings at predominantly white schools draw the most media attention, The Post analysis revealed that children of color are far more likely to experience campus gun violence — nearly twice as much for Hispanic students and three times as much for black students.

The Post also learned that police officers or security guards were employed by 68 schools that experienced gun violence over the past 19 years. Yet a resource officer has gunned down an active shooter just once.