After a year without mass school shootings, experts sound the alarm about a ‘return to normal’

By: | March 30, 2021

As the pandemic spread across the country, students were swept from their classrooms and isolated in their homes, raising concern that the instability could result in devastating emotional health implications and widespread learning loss. But it also came with an unsettling silver lining: A year without a single mass school shooting.

The trend wasn’t unique to schools. Until this month, there wasn’t a single mass shooting in a public space during the pandemic, according to data from The Violence Project, a nonprofit research center focused on reducing such tragedies. The group uses a narrow definition for the incidents, often called “active shootings,” to include those in which four or more people are killed in a public location, like a school, and isn’t connected to a felony such as an armed robbery. But that doesn’t mean that fatal shootings — including on school campuses — stopped altogether. In fact, firearm fatalities in the U.S surged in 2020.

Now, in the wake of back-to-back mass shootings this month in Colorado and Georgia as communities reopen, school safety experts said the carnage should serve as a wake-up call for educators, warning about the potential for violent outbursts as students repopulate classrooms. As communities look to resume their pre-pandemic life, forensic psychologist Jillian Peterson, co-founder of The Violence Project, said that routine mass shootings in the U.S. are a devastating part of that reality.

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