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, school, 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 averted incidents of school violence, a sample drawn from the Averted School Violence (ASV) database, were analyzed to help further our understanding of averted school attacks. The ASV project defines an incident of averted school violence as a violent attack planned with or without the use of a firearm that was prevented either before or after the potential perpetrator arrived on school grounds but before any injury or loss of life occurred.
The 51 averted attacks do not constitute every incident of school violence that has occurred in the United States since April 20, 1999, nor do they constitute a representative sample. Rather, 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 school violence 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)
- Suspect information (about the plotter’s behavioral history, background, warning signs exhibited, etc.)
- Documentation (lessons learned from the planned attack and recommendations on how to prevent future planned attacks of a similar nature)
Because the majority of the data came from open sources, it was not always possible to gather data for all the information categories presented in the database. Thus, in some areas, the data cannot be assumed to be complete.