In a tragic bit of irony, Easter Sunday marked the 15th anniversary of the school shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.
When news of the Columbine shooting trickled into my home in Ohio, I was walking home from an uneventful day in the fifth grade. I remember not understanding how it could be true.
Thirteen years later, when news of Sandy Hook broke, I was standing in front of a classroom of fifth graders in Nashville, wondering how I would protect the innocent children in front of me if something like that ever happened while I was teaching.
As a former teacher, school violence is an issue that is difficult to read, think or speak about without a sense of complete terror, sadness and anxiety. We live in a country of opportunity, a place where everyone should have the right to an excellent and safe place to attain an education.
And yet, as we’ve too sadly seen—that is not necessarily the case. In fact, the numbers are all too devastating.
12: Students killed in the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado
Although many see this as one of the landmark mass shooting in a school, there were at least 40 documented school shootings (mostly limited to only one or two fatalities) between the years of 1927 and 1999. In Jonesboro, Arkansas in 1998, a school shooting claimed five victims.
$140 Million: Cost of a recent Congress deal to support safer schools
It’s a $29 million increase.
10,000: Active school resource officers stationed in the U.S.
School resource officers are law enforcement officers who’ve been trained for a school environment and how to deal with school shootings.
180: People killed in U.S. school shootings since Columbine
That’s since April of 1999. The total number of school shooting fatalities from the rest of the world combined since then is around 175.
17: Elementary schools in which a shooting has occurred
Despite the fact that the 2012 shooting Newtown, Conn. claimed the most lives, it was not the first time that a space designed for young children to learn was the scene of attack.
9: U.S. school shootings that occurred within the first 18 school days of 2014
There were a total of 28 in 2013.
25: School shootings in the United States since the beginning of 2014
There’s been a total of fifteen across the rest of the world in the same time period.
This number is shocking, but the reasons behind it remain difficult to pin down. Depending on who you ask, a lack of parenting, a lack of respect for life, a lack of adequate access to mental health facilities, an ease of access to guns and even video games have all been brought up as possible factors.
70: The percentage of school shootings carried out by minors
The majority of shootings inside schools are kids killing other kids.
Regardless of the numbers, your own personal views on constitutional rights, mental health, gun control and family values in the United States, school shootings are a deeply horrifying and real problem in our country.
And while these issues cannot be discussed without considering other deeply troubling problems such as mental health treatment and school security, they need to be discussed if our country is going to move any closer to authentically providing our children with safe spaces to learn.
Because if the question is “What’s changed since Columbine?” The answer is: not enough.
Liz Riggs is a freelance writer and English teacher in Nashville, Tenn. She eats stories like grapes and has a very serious appreciation for macaroni and cheese. Follow her on Twitter at your own risk @riggser.