This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.
SPOTLIGHT: A US government report about school shootings is riddled with errors.
BIG PICTURE: This past April, the US Department of Education released a report that included a startling claim:
Nearly 240 schools (0.2 percent of all schools) reported at least 1 incident involving a school-related shooting…during the 2015-2016 school year.
Two weeks ago, National Public Radio (NPR) declared that number nonsense. In a lengthy article titled The School Shootings That Weren’t, NPR explains that a team of interns spent the summer calling every one of the 235 schools that had supposedly experienced a shooting. (All 95,360 schools nationwide were required, by law, to answer the government survey.)
NPR received no reply from roughly one quarter of these 235 schools. Nevertheless, it learned something critically important about the majority of them: no shooting had actually occurred:
We were able to confirm just 11 reported incidents, either directly with schools or through media reports.
In 161 cases, schools or districts attested that no incident took place or couldn’t confirm one. In at least four cases, we found, something did happen, but it didn’t meet the government’s parameters for a shooting. [bold added]
NPR tells us the bogus total of 235 included 26 shootings in a Southern California school district. But a superintendent who’d worked there almost 30 years couldn’t recall a single such incident.
Likewise, a report of four shootings at another California school district was vehemently denied by a spokesperson who said no one could remember any occurrence of that kind “going back 20-plus years.”
The 37 shootings reported by an Ohio school board were also wholly spurious. 37 was actually the answer to the previous survey question, which had asked about instances involving “possession of a knife or a firearm.”
In Georgia, a “toy cap gun fired on a school bus” was reported as a school shooting. In Florida, a student who “took a picture of himself at home holding a gun and posted it to social media” got counted.
It used to be that reports issued by the government were reliable. That’s no longer the case.
TOP TAKEAWAY: Numerous reports are issued by governments each month. Thousands more are released every year by environmental groups, charitable foundations, and so forth. It’s impossible to fact-check/replicate/investigate even a small percentage of the statements embedded in these reports. Ergo: we know a lot less than we think we do.
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