School-Associated Violent Death Study


CDC has been collecting data on school-associated violent deaths since 1992. The system, which was developed in partnership with the Departments of Education and Justice, monitors school-associated violent deaths at the national level. Information is collected each year from media databases, law enforcement, and school officials. The School-Associated Violent Death Surveillance System (SAVD-SS) presents the most recent data available on school-associated violent deaths; common features of these events; and potential risk factors for perpetration and victimization. Data obtained from this study play an important role in monitoring and assessing national trends in school-associated violent deaths and helping to inform efforts to prevent fatal school violence.

Case Definition

A case is defined as a fatal injury (e.g., homicide, suicide, or legal intervention) that occurs on school property, on the way to/from school, or during or on the way to/from a school-sponsored event. Only violent deaths associated with U.S. primary and secondary schools, both public and private, are included.

Major Findings

  • Most school-associated violent deaths occur during transition times – immediately before and after the school day and during lunch. 1
  • Violent deaths are more likely to occur at the start of each semester.2
  • Nearly 50 percent of homicide perpetrators gave some type of warning signal, such as making a threat or leaving a note, before the event.1
  • Firearms used in school-associated homicides and suicides came primarily from the perpetrator’s home or from friends or relatives.3
  • Homicide is the second leading cause of death among youth aged 5-18. Data from this study indicate that between 1% and 2% of these deaths happen on school grounds or on the way to or from school. These findings underscore the importance of preventing violence at school as well as in communities.

Trends in School-Associated Violent Deaths—1992-2015

Trends in School-Associated Violent Deaths—1992-2015

1The data from 1999—2000 onward are subject to change until law enforcement reports have been obtained and interviews with school and law enforcement officials have been completed. The details learned during the interviews can occasionally change the classification of a case. for more information on this survey, please see appendix A.

2A school-associated violent death is defined as “a homicide, suicide, or legal intervention death (involving a law enforcement officer), in which the fatal injury occurred on the campus of a functioning elementary or secondary school in the United States,” while the victim was on the way  to or from regular sessions at school, or while the victim was attending or traveling to or from an official school-sponsored event. victims include students, staff members, and others who are not students or staff members, from July 1, 1992, through June 30, 2015.

NOTE: “At school” includes on the property of a functioning primary or secondary school, on the way to or from regular sessions at school, and while attending or traveling to or from a shool-sponsored event. In this indicator, the term “at school” is comparable in meaning to the term “school-associated.”

SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1992-2015 School-Associated Violent Death Surveillance System (SAVD-SS) (partially funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Healthy Students), unpublished tabulation (June 201).

See Youth Violence Resources for articles and data sources for the School Associated Violent Death Study.

Page last reviewed: October 30, 2018