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New Research Highlights Socioeconomic Impact of School Shootings on Communities

The study is the first to show how campus shootings affect school finances and student composition

May 24, 2021

Media Contact: Danny Parra, [email protected], (202) 994-3199

WASHINGTON (May 24, 2021) – School shootings are followed by a decline in enrollment as higher income families move out, leaving the schools and the community surrounding it poorer and more segregated, according to a new study. The drops in enrollment may lead to a downward spiral that harms students that remain in affected communities for years to come, the researchers said.
“Our study is the first to focus on financial and demographic impacts of campus shootings on school districts,” Lang (Kate) Yang, an assistant professor of public policy and public administration at the George Washington University, said. “We found that these drops in enrollment occurred despite an increase in per pupil spending for counseling and other support services.”
Yang and a colleague did an analysis of school shootings in all 50 states, finding drops in both private and public school enrollments after school shootings. The authors say that higher income families may be leaving because they can afford to move out of the district. At the same time, the findings suggest that school shootings could bring socioeconomic changes to the community over the long run.
The study notes that campus shootings often lead to an increase in school spending, mainly funded by the federal government. While the additional money is largely directed toward student support services and capital projects, it does not divert resources from instructional programs. However, as federal funding levels decreased, some school districts were also left with higher debt. 
“Our study really highlights the need for sustained federal support to schools that experience shootings,” Maithreyi Gopalan, an assistant professor of education at Pennsylvania State University said. “While some recent federal grant programs aimed at improving school safety are a step in the right direction, our study points to the need for not just more federal funding for violence prevention and school safety but also student support services and community outreach to mitigate the departure of families due to the potential stigma associated with campus shootings.”
Yang and Gopalan published the results of their study in the journal Education Finance and Policy.