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NPR: More than two-thirds of school shootings reported to feds in 2015-16 never happened

NPR found in an investigation that the number of school shooting reported to the Department of Education for the 2015-16 school year were grossly inflated. The White House lawn (above) was scattered with shoes for a gun control display earlier this year. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

National Public Radio uncovered deeply flawed data published by the U.S. Department of Education, following an investigation that found that more than two-thirds of school shootings reported to the authorities during one school year did not actually occur.

What are the details?

With help from the nonprofit research group Child Trends, NPR analyzed data from the 2015-16 school year as reported in the Civil Rights Data Collection survey on school climate and safety.

The report states that "nearly 240 schools (0.2 percent of all schools) reported at least one incident involving a school-related shooting." It also noted that "over 100 schools (0.1 percent of all schools) reported a school-related homicide involving a student, faculty member, or staff member."

NPR reached out to each of the schools cited as having a shooting incident, and "found that more than two-thirds of these reported incidents never happened."

According to NPR, the federal government reported 235 schools shootings. Only 11 incidents were confirmed either by schools or through news reports. Another four cases were confirmed by schools, but they had actually been miscategorized as they didn't actually meet the government's definition of a school shooting.

In 161 cases, administrators told NPR that no incident took place or they couldn't confirm that one had. The remaining 59 cases, NPR said, could not be confirmed or disconfirmed, largely because the schools never responded to repeated calls over a three-month period.

The American Civil Liberties Union followed up with the schools cited from the 2015-16 report in a separate investigation, calling the data "mostly erroneous" and also confirming just 11 incidents from the 230-plus schools that reported shootings.

Both NPR and the ACLU pointed to comparative numbers from Everytown for Gun Safety, whose data shows that fewer than 30 school shootings occurred during the 2015-16 school year.

Now what?

A Department of Education spokeswoman told NPR that any misreporting was the schools' responsibility, and the report with false numbers will not be republished.

When the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified district found out from NPR that the 2015-16 report showed them having four reported shootings (although none had occurred), administrators emailed the CRDC to have the false reports removed.

The response back to the district read: "The CRDC accepts correction requests up to one year from the moment the submission period opens. For the 2015-16 collection, the corrections period closed on June 20, 2018, and for this reason your data correction request cannot be accepted. However, a data note will be included on the data file to ensure users are aware of the errors you are reporting."

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