The school shootings that weren’t

To listen to the March for our Lives kids, there is supposedly a school shooting almost daily in the US.

Like this Tweet which was retweeted by David Hogg:

This has become a common whine from anti-gun activists, especially the kids.

“I don’t know if I’ll be next, I’m afraid to leave my house.”

So imagine my surprise when I saw this from National Propaganda Public Radio.

What…?

The School Shootings That Weren’t

How many times per year does a gun go off in an American school?

We should know. But we don’t.

This spring the U.S. Education Department reported that in the 2015-2016 school year, “nearly 240 schools … reported at least 1 incident involving a school-related shooting.” The number is far higher than most other estimates.

But NPR reached out to every one of those schools repeatedly over the course of three months and found that more than two-thirds of these reported incidents never happened. Child Trends, a nonpartisan nonprofit research organization, assisted NPR in analyzing data from the government’s Civil Rights Data Collection.

We were able to confirm just 11 reported incidents, either directly with schools or through media reports.

In 161 cases, schools or districts attested that no incident took place or couldn’t confirm one. In at least four cases, we found, something did happen, but it didn’t meet the government’s parameters for a shooting. About a quarter of schools didn’t respond to our inquiries.

Two-thirds of the school shootings that we are beat over the head with as a justification for more gun control never happened.

“When we’re talking about such an important and rare event, [this] amount of data error could be very meaningful,” says Deborah Temkin, a researcher and program director at Child Trends.

No shit.  Especially since the higher number is used to scare kids into marching and goad politicians into pushing highly restrictive gun control laws.

This confusion comes at a time when the need for clear data on school violence has never been more pressing. Students around the country are heading back to school this month under a cloud of fear stemming from the most recent mass shootings in Parkland, Fla., and Santa Fe, Texas.

At least 53 new school safety laws were passed in states in 2018. Districts are spending millions of dollars to “harden” schools with new security measures and equipment. A blue-ribbon federal school safety commission led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is holding public events around the country, including one in Alabama Tuesday. Children are spending class time on active-shooter drills and their parents are buying bulletproof backpacks.

Our reporting highlights just how difficult it can be to track school-related shootings and how researchers, educators and policymakers are hindered by a lack of data on gun violence.

Hundreds of millions of dollars spent.  Money raised by politicians.  People gaining fame and fortune on the national stage.  The media getting eyes glued to their channels 24/7.  All of it based on bullshit numbers that nobody can confirm.

The Civil Rights Data Collection for 2018 required every public school — more than 96,000 — to answer questions on a wide range of issues.

It asked what sounded like a simple question:

In the 2015-2016 school year, “Has there been at least one incident at your school that involved a shooting (regardless of whether anyone was hurt)?”

The answer — “nearly 240 schools (0.2 percent of all schools)” — was published this spring.

The government’s definition included any discharge of a weapon at school-sponsored events or on school buses. Even so, that would be a rate of shootings, and a level of violence, much higher than anyone else had ever found.

For comparison, the Everytown for Gun Safety database, citing media reports, listed just 29 shootings at K-12 schools between mid-August 2015 and June 2016. There is little overlap between this list and the government’s, with only seven schools appearing on both.

So the question could mean anything including “did a drug dealer fire a gun across the street from your school on a Saturday” but the media and interest groups spun that into “there were 240 Sandy Hooks.”

There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

separate investigation by the ACLU of Southern California also was able to confirm fewer than a dozen of the incidents in the government’s report, while 59 percent were confirmed errors.

Which was memory holed because the ACLU has gone fully partisan, as documented by Miguel.

Most of the school leaders NPR reached had little idea of how shootings got recorded for their schools.

For example, the CRDC reports 26 shootings within the Ventura Unified School District in Southern California.

“I think someone pushed the wrong button,” said Jeff Davis, an assistant superintendent there. The outgoing superintendent, Joe Richards, “has been here for almost 30 years and he doesn’t remember any shooting,” Davis added. “We are in this weird vortex of what’s on this screen and what reality is.”

We only reported 26 false positives, our bad.

The biggest discrepancy in sheer numbers was the 37 incidents listed in the CRDC for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Roseann Canfora, the district’s chief communications officer, told us that, in fact, 37 schools reported “possession of a knife or a firearm,” which is the previous question on the form.

The number 37, then, was apparently entered on the wrong line.

Don’t you just love it when people try to set national policy restricting a civil right based on data that was the result of a bureaucratic typo?  Me too.

Similarly, the CRDC lists four shootings among the 16 schools of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District in California. Gail Pinsker, spokeswoman for the district, says that “going back 20-plus years,” no one can remember any incident involving a firearm. Their best guess, she says, is that there was some kind of mistake in coding, where an incident involving something like a pair of scissors (California Education Code 48915[c][2]), for example, got inflated into one involving a firearm (48915[c][1]).

Is it just me or do public school bureaucracy attract the dumbest and most incompetent people.

“Can you fill out a simple questionnaire?  No.  Are you able to ignore the desperate pleading of a special needs kid?  Yes.  Congrats, you get to be superintendent now.”

Also at issue, the internal report says, was a “lack of clarity in the definitions of key terms.” When it came to “Offenses,” the group of questions including firearm use, districts “indicated dissatisfaction with the categories provided, specifically that the CRDC categories did not align with the categories used in state reporting, other federal reporting, and/or their own district databases.”

As an example of this lack of alignment, the federal Gun-Free Schools Act requires schools in states that receive federal funds to expel students who bring a gun to school and requires districts in those states to report the circumstances of such expulsions to the state — regardless of whether a gun goes off.

The state of Florida asks schools to report “weapons possession,” excluding pocketknives. California asks schools to report suspensions and expulsions resulting from “possession, sale, furnishing of a firearm” or “imitation firearm.”

Unless the kid is a minority student in the dreaded school to prison pipeline, then it will be ignored until he kills 17 of his classmates.

And there’s another factor at work as well: the law of really, really big numbers. Temkin notes that “240 schools is less than half of 1 percent,” of the schools in the survey. “It’s in the margin of error.”

Wow… the “there is a school shooting every day” claim is in the margin of error.  Still we hear from kids “I’m afraid to go to school and that I’ll be killed in a mass shooting.”

We are scaring our kids to death over the margin of error of a survey.

This is fascinating information from NPR.  This should be big news.

“Yes, we need school security but kids need to worry less, it’s not as bad as you think” is a great message.

Too bad that message goes against the interests of special interest groups and politicians.

The narrative has been set and no amount admitting to false positives and errors will change that.

Why let facts get in the way of taking away people’s rights.

3 Replies to “The school shootings that weren’t”

  1. One of my concerns with all the data collected for various “studies”(not just shootings, but also drug use, sexual harassment, or any other cause du jour) is that the people doing the “study” rely on information provided by bored bureaucrats whose job is not collecting or validating data.

    School district administrator, up to their ears in budget paperwork gets a questionnaire from an alphabet agency. She hands it to her assistant or intern, “Here, fill this out and get it back to me by tomorrow.” No way anyone is going spend the time to do actual research and there is no protection against bias (either intentional or unintentional). At best the data “collected” in this manner are educated guesses, at worst pure fiction. Thus the questionnaire becomes data and the data drive policy.

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