In the Bangor Daily News of December 20 2012, Daniel Patterson of Presque Isle Maine writes that armed guards should be posted in all public schools:
"We need armed guards where masses of people, especially children, gather because crazed gunmen target masses of people. I know we might not like the image of soldiers at our schools and malls, but I’d rather see that than lifeless bodies of children."
The next day, National Rifle Association Vice President Wayne LaPierre called a national press conference at which he also called for armed guards to posted in all public schools:
"The budget of our local police departments are strained and resources are limited, but their dedication and courage are second to none and they can be deployed right now.
I call on Congress today to act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school — and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January.
Before Congress reconvenes, before we engage in any lengthy debate over legislation, regulation or anything else, as soon as our kids return to school after the holiday break, we need to have every single school in America immediately deploy a protection program proven to work — and by that I mean armed security."
Do guards armed with guns belong at schools? The answer to that question might be “yes” if schools are especially dangerous places. If on the other hand schools are not especially dangerous places, then there is clearly no safety or budgetary reason to put armed guards in schools.
It’s time for a fact check: are schools in the United States dangerous places for kids to be? Are they more dangerous for kids than they used to be? Is being in school more dangerous for kids than being out of school?
Existing data from the National Center for Education Statistics and a new report released just yesterday by the the Bureau of Justice Statistics address these questions succinctly and definitively.
NCES’ most recent data on the number of homicides in school and out of school, combined with Census Bureau data on the number of school-aged children in the United States, allow us to chart the rate of homicide in the United States in school and out of school:
The youth homicide rate in schools is negligible at the national level, consistently less than 1 in 10,000,000 people. If you’re going to worry about children being killed, worry about the still-small but much-bigger youth homicide rate outside of school, which is far, far higher. Schools are safe places for children. Schools are havens from murder — and they have been getting safer, not more dangerous, over time.
What about other serious violent crimes, like rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults? The National Crime Victimization Survey asks people aged 12 and older about the crimes like these that they’ve suffered in school and out of school. A report by Janet Lauritsen and Nicole White of the University of Missouri, released on December 20, 2012 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, includes data on the rape, robbery and aggravated assault rate in school and out of school:
As with homicide, the rate of these serious violent crimes is quite low in school, higher outside of school than inside school, and decreasing over time.
Schools are safe. The call to stuff the schools with armed guards is not based in reality.