Skip to navigationSkip to content

At least 4 million US children endured a school lockdown this year

AP Photo/John Amis
A scene that played out across the US this year: Parents comforted their children after threats prompted a lockdown at Glennwood Elementary School in Decatur, Georgia on Nov. 27, 2018.
By Zoë Schlanger
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

In 2018, at least 4.1 million children in the US sat huddled in closets or standing in corners as their schools went through lockdowns. The incidents took place during safety drills, gun threats, and active-shooter scenarios, and left many students traumatized. According to an investigation by the Washington Post, a typical 2018 day in the US included at least 16 school campuses in lockdown.

The Post pored over school records and tens of thousands of news articles to identify more than 6,200 school lockdowns this year. That number is likely a vast underrepresentation: Many school districts, including large urban districts like Detroit and Chicago, don’t keep track of lockdowns. “Hundreds never make the news,” write authors Steven Rich and John Woodrow Cox, “particularly when they happen at urban schools attended primarily by children of color.”

Their investigation includes anecdotal reports of kids writing wills, soiling themselves, and texting goodbye to their parents while enduring school lockdowns.

2018 was also the biggest year for gun violence at US schools since at least 1999, the year of the Columbine school shooting in Colorado. There were 25 school shootings this year, with 94 people shot and 33 killed. The Post calculated that 25,332 students were exposed to gun violence during those incidents.

📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.