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Just Published: A Comparison of Averted and Completed School Attacks from the ASV Database

IN 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) provided funding to the Police Foundation to initiate the Averted School Violence (ASV) project. Through this project, the Police Foundation developed a database to collect, analyze, and publish (in an online library) incidents of averted and completed acts of school violence that have occurred since the attack on Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, on April 20, 1999. The data are drawn from the public domain as well as from law enforcement, school officials, and others entering reports into the database. The database is intended to serve as a resource to law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals, and others involved in preventing school violence by sharing ways in which other school attacks across the country have been identified and prevented.

In this report, 51 completed and 51 averted incidents of school violence, drawn from the ASV database, were analyzed to help further our understanding of averted and completed school attacks. The report also seeks to provide important lessons about how school violence can be prevented.

The 51 completed attacks do not constitute every incident of school violence that has occurred in the United States since the attack at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, on April 20, 1999. They have been chosen as a data set that can be compared to 51 averted incidents of school violence that have occurred since the attack at Columbine. As with the actual attacks, the 51 averted attacks do not constitute all the averted attacks that have occurred since Columbine, nor do they constitute a representative sample. The averted attacks (those that were identified from open sources) were selected based on the amount of information available in open sources and with an effort made to find reports in a wide range of states.

Information collected on each averted and completed incident consisted of the following categories as displayed in the database: basic information (about the person submitting the report); school information (about school security procedures, size, education level, etc.); event information (about the planned attack and its discovery or the actual attack and its impact); suspect information (about the plotters’ or perpetrators’ behavioral history, background, warning signs exhibited, etc.); and assessment (lessons learned from the attack or planned attack and recommendations on how to prevent future attacks or planned attacks of a similar nature.) Because the majority of the data on averted and completed attacks came from open sources, it was not always possible to gather data for all the categories under consideration from the database. Thus, in some areas, the data cannot be assumed to be complete.

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