by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
[A]long comes the Department of Education to amplify everyone’s fears. Last spring it declared that “nearly 240 schools . . . reported at least 1 incident involving a school-related shooting.” This number blew through everyone’s estimates, including Everytown’s. Indeed, extrapolated over five years, it would triple Everytown’s.
Well, I have good news: The DOE’s estimate appears to be wildly exaggerated. NPR committed an act of journalism in the first degree and actually contacted each of the schools that reported a shooting to the DOE. It “found that more than two-thirds of these reported incidents never happened.”
So why were the numbers so wrong? Human error. It turns out that when you ask representatives of 96,000 different schools to fill out forms, some small percentage of them will make a mistake. …
… [T]his mistake highlights two things, one related to the challenge of school security, the other to the perception of public risk.
First, there is the needle-in-a-haystack challenge of law enforcement and school administrators, the burden of hardening every target and following every lead on the tiny, remote chance that one of the leads is real and one of the schools is actually a target. It’s the old adage applied to terrorism: School security has to be perfect every time, while the school shooter only has to get lucky once.
Second, our children are, thankfully, safer than we thought — safer, even, than the government told us. That is not a reason to ignore red flags or to blithely blow through warning signs in the assumption that everything will be alright. It is good reason for parents to send their kids to school without fear.