In 2014, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) provided funding to the National Police Foundation (NPF) to develop and maintain an Averted School Violence (ASV) database. The ASV database collects, analyzes, and publishes averted and completed acts of school violence that have occurred since the April 20, 1999 attack on Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. The data is drawn from open source media articles, as well as from law enforcement, school officials, and others entering reports into the ASV database.
The ASV database serves as a resource to law enforcement, school, mental health professionals, and others involved in preventing school violence. In 2019, NPF conducted a preliminary analysis of the 51 averted cases in the ASV database to identify basic information about the schools, perpetrators and suspects, weapons, plots, and incidents. The report, published through the COPS Office, can be found here. NPF also conducted a comparison of 51 averted and 51 completed school attacks from the ASV database, in 2019, to identify important similarities and differences between the types of incidents. The report, published through the COPS Office, can be found here.
Information on averted or completed school attacks is entered into the ASV database via an online questionnaire within the database. The questionnaire has six main sections: basic information, school information, event information, suspect information, documentation, and assessment. These categories and their corresponding questions were developed as a result of a focus group and ongoing consultation with experts in multiple fields, past research, and NPF researchers and staff. The first five categories (basic information, school information, event information, suspect information, and documentation) focus on the incident-level data associated with the averted attack. The sixth category (assessment) allows the individual submitting a report to provide their feedback and takeaways from the incident. The ASV database, represents the only national database that gathers, analyzes, and reports on averted school attacks.
The number of successful attacks is far outnumbered by incidents in which an attack was planned or was almost carried out, but was then averted thanks to the actions of persons in the school or in the community.
Individually, these incidents may be dismissed or only have a short-term localized impact because they did not achieve their goal; did not meet the requirements for a school to document the incident; or due to under reporting in the media.
While there have been a handful of studies conducted to identify common ways in which planned attacks were discovered, who intervened to prevent a likely attack, and the extent to which students reported potential planned attacks to authorities, there remains a considerable gap in the school violence literature surrounding averted attacks and what lessons can be learned from them regarding school safety and security. The ASV database—along with the reports, webinars, conference presentations, and Congressional briefings—help fill the gap.
In March 2021, NPF will release, in collaboration with the COPS Office, a new report that provides an in-depth analysis of 171 averted attacks from the database.
The Averted School Violence Data Collection Platform is being developed and implemented with the funding assistance of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).
To date, all funding has been provided by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), with initial support from the National Institute of Justice, and most recently from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).
Frank Straub, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Mass Violence Response Studies
National Police Foundation
school violence, averted school violence, targeted school violence, mass violence