Committee on Case Studies in School Violence

Type: Consensus Study
Topics: Children, Youth and Families
Boards: Board on Children, Youth, and Families, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

Activity Description

In the 1990s, youth violence, which had reached epidemic levels in the nation’s cities beginning in the late 1980s, took an apparently unprecedented form in rural and suburban middle and high schools across the country. Between 1992 and 2001, 35 incidents occurred in which students showed up at their school or at a school-sponsored event and started firing at their schoolmates and teachers. These incidents, represented most starkly by the incident at Columbine High School, in Littleton, Colorado, left 53 dead, and 144 injured.

In 2001, Congress requested that the National Research Council study this phenomenon, specifically asking that detailed case studies be developed of the circumstances that led to extreme lethal violence in schools. The goal was to use these cases to learn as much as possible about two important questions. First, what could be said about the important causes and consequences of these unexpected, lethal shootings? Second, what actions could individuals and institutions take either to prevent these events from occurring in the first place or to minimize the damage once they began to unfold?