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Bullying is Linked to School Shootings. What do Schools Need to Know?

Law enforcement officials put up police tape at the Perry Middle School and High School complex in response to a school shooting on Jan. 4, 2024, in Iowa. Emerging media reports say the 17-year-old shooter faced relentless bullying. Scott Olson via Getty Images

It’s a common refrain in the wake of school violence: Why would anyone do something like this? But a substantial and growing body of research continues to find strong correlations between school shooters and bullying.

Most attackers who target K-12 schools were bullied — sometimes persistently, according to a 2019 report by the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center that analyzed 41 incidents of school violence at K-12 schools between 2008 and 2017.

While that analysis only looked at behavioral histories for 35 of the 41 attackers, 80% of those 35 were bullied by classmates, and 57% faced bullying that lasted for weeks, months or years.

There’s also a 49% higher chance that adolescents will carry guns if they were bullied on school property within the previous year compared to peers who weren’t bullied, according to a 2022 study published in the journal Cureus.

Anecdotal evidence of bullying is emerging from last week’s tragic shooting at Perry High School in Iowa — in which a 6th-grader was killed and four other students and three staff members were wounded. In an interview with The Associated Press, two classmates said the 17-year-old shooter who died on the scene from a self-inflicted gunshot wound was “bullied relentlessly since elementary school.”


Read more on the K-12 Dive website

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