Objectives: To conduct the first nationwide investigation of violent deaths associated with schools in the United States, to quantify the risk of school-associated violent death, and to identify epidemiologic features of these deaths.
Design: Descriptive case series.
Setting: United States, July 1, 1992, through June 30, 1994.
Methods: School-associated violent deaths were identified by study collaborators and through 2 online news databases. Police reports, medical examiners' records, and interviews with police and school officials provided detailed information about each case.
Results: In a 2-year period, 105 school-associated violent deaths were identified. The estimated incidence of school-associated violent death was 0.09 per 100 000 student-years. Students in secondary schools, students of minority racial and ethnic backgrounds, and students in urban school districts had higher levels of risk. The deaths occurred in communities of all sizes in 25 different states. Homicide was the predominant cause of death (n = 85 [80.9%]), and firearms were responsible for a majority (n = 81 [77.1%]) of the deaths. Most victims were students (n = 76 [72.4%]). Both victims and offenders tended to be young (median ages, 16 and 17 years, respectively) and male (82.9% and 95.6%, respectively). Approximately equal numbers of deaths occurred inside school buildings (n = 31 [29.5%]), outdoors but on school property (n = 37 [35.2%]), and at off-campus locations while the victim was in transit to or from school (n = 37 [35.2%]). Equal numbers of deaths occurred during classes or other school activities (n = 46 [43.8%]) and before or after official school activities (n = 46 [43.8%]).
Conclusions: School-associated violent deaths were more common than previously estimated. The epidemiologic features of these deaths were similar to those of homicides and suicides that occur elsewhere. A comprehensive approach that addresses violent injury and death among young people at school and elsewhere in the community is suggested.