Mass Shootings

Is 2018 Really 'Deadlier For Schoolchildren Than Service Members'?

A Washington Post headline misleads its readers.


Santa Fe
Harris County Sheriff"s Office/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Today's tragic mass killing at Santa Fe High School, which left at least 10 dead, brings the total number of people killed in school shootings so far this year to 29.

That's more than twice the number of U.S. military service members who have died in 2018, which prompted The Washington Post to run with this headline: "2018 has been deadlier for schoolchildren than service members." Teen Vogue's Lauren Duca tweeted the story, adding "this is not what a civilized country looks like."

If the implication here is that being a student is riskier than joining the military—well, that's highly misleading, if not flat-out wrong. As The Washington Post admits, five paragraphs into the article, there are 50 million kids in American K-12 schools and just 1.3 million military service people. The raw school shooting casualty number is higher than the military fatality number at this particular point in 2018, but when we divide by the total number of people in each group, it remains the case that being a solider is 17 times more likely to result in death than being a student.

That doesn't mean the higher-than-usual number of school shooting victims this year is acceptable. But the Post headline channels readers' paranoia, inviting them to believe that sending their kids to school is more dangerous than signing them up for the Army. This plays right into so many young people's fear that school shootings are likely and inevitable—something many of the kids at the March for Our Lives Rally in Washington, D.C., told me explicitly—when they remain quite rare.