"If a teacher hears a 16-round burst, what do they say to their kids?" That's just one of the questions that Urban Institute researcher Sam Bieler has after finding that more than half of Washington, D.C., public and charter schools were exposed to close-range gunfire during the 2011-12 school year.
Of the 116 schools that fell within range of a gunfire-detection system called ShotSpotter, which records audio of shots, 54 percent were exposed to gunfire within 1,000 feet between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. during school days. Even at that distance, a burst of bullets is hard to miss, says Bieler, who coauthored a new report. The range of the ShotSpotter system does not cover the other 59 schools in the District of Columbia.
Of those schools that were exposed to gunfire within 1,000 feet, 42 percent experienced gunfire that occurred during hours when students were going to and leaving school—between 8 and 9 a.m. and 3 and 4 p.m. The report notes that this level of gunfire at those hours was "particularly concerning," saying that children are most likely to be outside of the school building during that time and more exposed to potential gunfire.
Last year, The Washington Post ran an in-depth overview of the ShotSpotter system, but did not focus on schools specifically. The new report from the Urban Institute shows just how exposed schools in the District are to this level of violence.