December 15, 2012
Al Tompkins has done journalists a service by attempting to place school shootings in the U.S. into perspective. I once attended a class led by Tompkins at the Poynter Institute and would describe him as a no-bullshit kind of guy — an advocate of clear thinking.
In his article for Poynter, he asserts that American schools are safe and presents statistics to back this up. They show that school crime has fallen dramatically in recent years, which does indeed help to counter some of the hysteria.
But there was one figure from an NPR report that I can’t get out of my mind: “By 2010, the latest figures available, those numbers had decreased to two homicides and four violent crimes per 1,000 students.”
That means one out of 500 students in the United States was murdered in 2010. It means that in a high school with 500 students, you could expect that one of them would be killed during the school year.
But say you live in a safe neighbourhood, where students are never killed. That means other schools have to pick up the slack, and have two or three students killed in a year. It’s shocking.
I have no idea how many students there are in the U.S., but let’s say for the sake of argument that it’s 50 million — although in a country of 311 million you would expect it to be higher. That would mean 100,000 students were killed in 2010. It’s beyond shocking.
I suppose there is hope in the fact that this number has been decreasing and that we may one day see it drift down to zero, but I don’t see this as a reason for complacency. The no-bullshit solutions are blindingly obvious — restrictions on gun ownership and improved access to health care. Cut the crap and just do it.