Historical Examination of United States Intentional Mass School Shootings in the 20th and 21st Centuries: Implications for Students, Schools, and Society


The deadliest U.S. school shooting to date, occurring on February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida serves as a powerful reminder that school violence is ever present. Addressing school violence, however, has been an elusive endeavor. The purpose of this review is to provide a historical examination of United States intentional mass school shootings in the 20th and 21st centuries. In addition, implications for students, schools, and society are discussed in light of policy and legislative initiatives as well as school-based prevention and intervention tiered models of support, such as positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS).

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. Adame, T. (2015). A school shooting in Goddard, 30 years later. The Wichita Eagle. http://www.kansas.com/news/local/crime/article8073096.html.

  2. Alcorn, T. (2017). Trends in research publications about gun violence in the United States, 1960 to 2014. JAMA Internal Medicine, 77, 124–126.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. American Psychological Association (2018). Threat assessment in action. http://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/02/cover-threat.aspx.

  4. Anchorage Daily News (2017). What set off Evan Ramsey? Alaska’s only school shooter talks about what happened 20 years ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIQt9Jdp94Q.

  5. Associated Press (2018). National school walkout: thousands protest against gun violence across the U.S. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/14/us/school-walkout.html.

  6. Associated Press (2010). School shooter Michael Carneal recalls delusions. WDRB. http://www.wdrb.com/story/13279449/school-shooter-michael-carneal-discusses-delusions.

  7. Associated Press (1998). Student guns down science teacher chaperoning school dance. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1998/04/26/us/student-guns-down-science-teacher-chaperoning-school-dance.html.

  8. Associated Press (1993). 4 students shot; motive is unclear. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/1993/09/19/us/4-students-shot-motive-is-unclear.html.

  9. Associated Press (1986). Failing grade is linked to shooting of teacher. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/1986/12/06/us/failing-grade-is-linked-to-shooting-of-teacher.html.

  10. Astor, R.A., Bear, G.G., Bradshaw, C.P., Cornell, D.G., Espelage, D.L., Flannery, D., et al. (2018). Call for action to prevent gun violence in the United States of America. https://curry.virginia.edu/sites/default/files/projects/Call%20for%20Action%20FINAL%20for%20DISSEMINATION%202-28-18-3-5-18%20Corrections_422pm.pdf.

  11. Bennett, P. (2012). The killer at Thurston High: fourteen years later, looking back at a school shooting. PBS: Frontline. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/fourteen-years-later-looking-back-at-a-school-shooting/.

  12. Berman, M. (2018). Parkland, Fla., shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz arraigned after prosecutors say they will seek death penalty. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/03/14/parkland-shooting-suspect-nikolas-cruz-to-be-arraigned-after-prosecutors-say-they-will-seek-death-penalty/?utm_term=.2f3f718bbe2b.

  13. BieryGolick, K. (2018). A school shooter, in his own words: “I wasn’t wanted by anyone.’ USA Today. https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2018/02/23/school-shooter-his-own-words-wasnt-wanted-anyone/360102002/.

  14. Bradshaw, C. P., Mitchell, M. M., & Leaf, P. J. (2010). Examining the effects of school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports on student outcomes: results from a randomized controlled effectiveness trial in elementary schools. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 12, 133–148.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Bradshaw, C.P., Waasdorp, T.E., & Leaf, P.J. (2012). Effects of school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports on child behavior problems and adjustment. Pediatrics, 130, e1136–e1145.

  16. Bult, L. (2016). The two men responsible for 1998 Jonesboro, Ark. shooting immediately tried to get guns after they got out of prison. New York Daily News. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/jonesboro-arkansas-shooters-guns-prison-article-1.2534820.

  17. Caniglia, J. (2014). From pot to Pokemon: Prison records describe T.J. Lane’s time behind bars before escape. The Plain Dealer. http://www.cleveland.com/court-justice/index.ssf/2014/09/from_pot_to_pokemon_prison_rec.html.

  18. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016). Fact Sheet: Understanding school violence. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/school_violence_fact_sheet-a.pdf.

  19. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (2008a). School-associated student homicides: United States, 1992-2006. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, 57, 33–36. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5702a1.htm.

  20. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (2008b). Youth risk behavior surveillance: United States, 2007. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, 57, 1–131. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5704a1.htm.

  21. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2017). Web-based Inquiry Statistics Query and Reporting System. https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html.

  22. Cliffords Law Center (2018). Guns in schools. http://lawcenter.giffords.org/gun-laws/policy-areas/guns-in-public/guns-in-schools/.

  23. Dahlberg, L. L., Ikeda, R. M., & Kresnow, M. J. (2004). Guns in the home and risk of a violent death in the home: Findings from a national study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 160, 929–936.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Daily Alta California (1890, April). Shot by a schoolboy. https://cdnc.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/cdnc?a=d&d=DAC18900425.2.68.

  25. Daly, M. (2014). The first modern school shooter feels responsible for the rest. The Daily Beast. https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-first-modern-school-shooter-feels-responsible-for-the-rest.

  26. Dickey, F. (2013). Killer recounts Santana High shooting. The San Diego Union Tribune. http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/columnists/sdut-charles-andy-williams-santana-high-school-shooting-2013may10-htmlstory.html.

  27. Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82, 405–432.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. Emmons, M., & Richman, J. (2016). Stockton shooting: 25 years later, city can’t forget its worst day. The Mercury News. https://www.mercurynews.com/2014/01/16/stockton-shooting-25-years-later-city-cant-forget-its-worst-day/.

  29. Fallis, D.S., Grimaldi, J.V., Horwitz, S., & Thompson, S.W. (2011). About the project: The hidden life of guns. Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/22/AR2011012204243.html.

  30. Finn, P., & McDevitt, J. (2005). National assessment of school resource officer programs: Final project report. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Follman, M., Lurie, J., Lee, J., & West, J. (2015). The true cost of gun violence in America. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/04/true-cost-of-gun-violence-in-america.

  32. Folmer, K., Singh, N., & Clarke, S. (2013). Amish school shooter’s widow, Marie Monville, speaks out. ABC News. http://abcnews.go.com/US/amish-school-shooters-widow-marie-monville-remembers-tragedy/story?id=20417790.

  33. Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI]. (2005). Serial murder: Multidisciplinary perspectives forinvestigators. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice. https://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/serial-murder/serial-murder-july-2008-pdf.

  34. Geranios, N.K. (2017a). Victim told suspect in Washington school shooting: I knew you would ‘shoot up the school.’ Chicago Tribune. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-washington-school-shooting-20170914-story.html.

  35. Geranios, N.K. (2017b). Barry Loukaitis. Moses Lake school shooter, breaks silence with apology. The Seattle Times. https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/barry-loukaitis-moses-lake-school-shooter-apologizes-in-1st-remarks/.

  36. Grossman, D. C., Mueller, B. A., Riedy, C., Dowd, M. D., Villaveces, A., Prodzinski, J., & Harruff, R. (2005). Gun storage practices and risk of youth suicide and unintentional firearm injuries. JAMA, 293, 707–714.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  37. Horner, R. H., & Sugai, G. (2015). School-wide PBIS: an example of applied behavior analysis implemented at a scale of social importance. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 8, 80–85.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  38. Johnson, K., & Dewan, S. (2014). Tangled portrait of a student emerges in Washington shooting. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/26/us/contrasting-portraits-emerge-of-jaylen-ray-fryberg-shooter-at-washington-school.html.

  39. Katsiyannis, A., Whitford, D.K., & Ennis, R. (2018). Firearm violence across the lifespan: relevance and theoretical impact on child and adolescent educational prospects. Journal of Child and Family Studies, online first. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1035-2.

  40. Kellermann, A. L., & Rivara, F. P. (2013). Silencing the science on gun research. Journal of the American Medical Association, 309(6), 549–550.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. Kern, L., George, M. P., & Weist, M. (2016). Step-by-step support for students with emotional and behavioral problems: prevention and intervention strategies. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Kern, L., Mathur, S.R., Albrecht, S.F., Poland, S., Rozalski, M., & Skiba, R. (2017). Recommendations for school-based mental health services. Behavioral Disorders, 43, 223–226. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12310-017-9216-5.

  43. Kohn, D. (2001). What really happened at Columbine? CBS News: 60min. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/what-really-happened-at-columbine/.

  44. Knapp, A. (2012). S.C. mom recalls the horror, guilt 24 years ago, her son shot and killed 2 young girls at school. The Post and Courier. https://www.postandcourier.com/archives/s-c-mom-recalls-the-horror-guilt-years-ago-her/article_f5ab6083-392a-5878-b084-fb4b6db08cda.html.

  45. Lane, K. L., Menzies, H. M., Oakes, W. P., & Kalberg, J. R. (2012). Systematic screenings of behavior to support instruction: From preschool to high school. New York, NY: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Lane, K. L., Oakes, W. P., & Menzies, H. M. (2010). Systematic screenings to prevent the development of learning and behavior problems: Considerations for practitioners, researchers, and policy makers. Journal of Disabilities Policy Studies, 21, 160–172. https://doi.org/10.1177/1044207310379123.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Lemieux, F. (2014). Effect of gun culture and firearm laws on firearm violence and mass shootings in the United States: a multi-level quantitative analysis. International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences, 9(1), 74–93.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Lindsey, R. (1984). Girl killed, 11 shot at school on coast; suspect found dead. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/1984/02/25/us/girl-killed-11-shot-at-school-on-coast-suspect-found-dead.html.

  49. Luery, M. (2017). 25 years later: Survivors of NorCal school shooting remember tragedy. KCRA. http://www.kcra.com/article/25-years-later-survivors-of-norcal-school-shooting-remember-tragedy/9589885.

  50. Magg, C. (2007). Short but troubled life ended in shooting and suicide. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/12/us/12cleveland.html.

  51. Mayo, N. (2018). Hearing for Jesse Osborne, teen accused in Townville school shooting, to begin next week. Independent Mail. https://www.independentmail.com/story/news/crime/2018/02/08/hearing-jesse-osborne-teen-accused-townville-school-shooting-begin-next-week/308439002/.

  52. McCoppin, R., & Berger, S. (2013). 25 years—and a surge in school violence—since Laurie Dann shootings. Chicago Tribune. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-05-19/news/ct-met-laurie-dann-25-years-later-20130519_1_school-violence-hubbard-woods-school-school-shootings.

  53. Miller, T. R. (2012). The cost of firearm violence. Calverton, MD: Children’s Safety Network. www.childrenssafetynetwork.org/publications/cost-firearm-violence

    Google Scholar 

  54. Mitchell, J. (2016). Pearl High School shooter Luke Woodham wants parole. The Clarion Ledger. https://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/2016/05/25/luke-woodham-wants-parole/32625191/.

  55. Mitchell, R.A. (1996). 10 years later, Cokeville just says: Let us be. Deseret News. https://www.deseretnews.com/article/489528/10-YEARS-LATER-COKEVILLE-JUST-SAYS-LET-US-BE.html.

  56. Musu-Gillette, L., Zhang, A., Wang, K., Zhang, J., & Oudekerk, B.A. (2017). Indicators of school crime and safety: 2016 (NCES 2017-064/NCJ 250650). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

  57. National Association of School Resource Officers (n.d.). Frequently asked questions. https://nasro.org/frequently-asked-questions/.

  58. National Ctr for the Analysis of Violent Crime (2008). Serial murder: multidisciplinary perspectives for investigators. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

  59. National Research Council (2005). Firearms and violence: a critical review. Committee on Law and Justice, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://www.nap.edu/read/10881/chapter/1#ii.

  60. New York Times (1853). Serious case of shooting. https://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9A0DE0DD1131E13BBC4B53DFB7678388649FDE.

  61. O’Donnell, P. (2014). Twenty years ago today: gunman opens fire at Wickliffe Middle School, killing one and wounding four. The Plain Dealer. http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2014/11/twenty_years_ago_today_gunman.html.

  62. Queen, A. (2016). TJ Solomon, Heritage High School shooter, released after 17 years. The Citizen. http://www.rockdalenewtoncitizen.com/news/local/tj-solomon-heritage-high-school-shooter-released-after-years/article_66508783-e652-5f3c-94c3-acaa6164f3ee.html.

  63. Ribbing, M. (1999). Fatal junior high shooting still haunts 16 years later. http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1999-05-02/topic/9905040373_1_senti-firecracker-beneath.

  64. Roberts, J. (2005). Troubled life of Minnesota shooter. CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/troubled-life-of-minnesota-shooter/.

  65. Sayers, J., & Wolfson, A. (2018). Gabe Parker saw Marshall County school shooting as an experiment, officer says. Courier Journal. https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2018/03/07/marshall-county-school-shooting-gabe-parker-experiment-motive/403035002/.

  66. Sharp, T. (1998). Teenage passion turns deadly at Tennessee school. Daily News, Associated Press. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ivoaAAAAIBAJ&pg=6820,3064789.

  67. Texeira, E., Krikorian, G., & Martelle, S. (2001). 5 hurt in gunfire at high school near San Diego; student is held. Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2001/mar/23/news/mn-41660.

  68. The White House (2013a). Progress report on the president’s executive actions to reduce gun violence, http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/exec_actions_progress_report_final.pdf.

  69. The White House (2013b). Now is the time to do something about gun violence. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/node/193271.

  70. Vogel, S., Horwitz, S., & Fahrenthold, D.A. (2012). Sandy Hook Elementary shooting leaves 28 dead, law enforcement sources say. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/sandy-hook-elementary-school-shooting-leaves-students-staff-dead/2012/12/14/24334570-461e-11e2-8e70-e1993528222d_story.html?utm_term=.32a2c17fd79c.

  71. Vossekuil, B., Fein, R., Reddy, M., Borum, R., & Modzeleski, W. (2004). The final report and findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the prevention of school attacks in the United States. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

    Google Scholar 

  72. Walton, R. (2005). Seth Trickey’s release final, judge declares. Tulsa World. http://www.tulsaworld.com/archives/seth-trickey-s-release-final-judge-declares/article_55d68afa-e3c4-54f4-be09-9ec128f7b662.html.

  73. Weiner, J., Wiebe, D. J., Richmond, T. S., Beam, K., Berman, A. L., Branas, C. C., & Webster, D. (2007). Reducing firearm violence: A research agenda. Injury Prevention, 13, 80–84.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  74. Williams, J. (2017). After 72 years, notorious South Pasadena school shootings still resonate with survivors. Pasadena Star-News. https://www.pasadenastarnews.com/2012/09/15/after-72-years-notorious-south-pasadena-school-shootings-still-resonate-with-survivors/.

  75. Wintemute, G.J. (2008). Guns, fear, the constitution, and the public’s health. New England Journal of Medicine 358, 421–1424.

  76. Zhang, A., Musu-Gillette, L., & Oudekerk, B. A. (2016). Indicators of school crime and safety: 2015 (NCES 2016-079/NCJ 249758). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Antonis Katsiyannis.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Katsiyannis, A., Whitford, D.K. & Ennis, R.P. Historical Examination of United States Intentional Mass School Shootings in the 20th and 21st Centuries: Implications for Students, Schools, and Society. J Child Fam Stud 27, 2562–2573 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1096-2

Download citation


  • Shooting
  • Guns
  • Violence
  • Schools
  • PBIS
  • Mental health