A pair of gunmen fired shots at a Florida high school football game on Friday and injured two men, but police aren’t labeling it a school shooting, Education Week reports.
The gunfire was “not a result of a current altercation or a random act of violence” and had “no bearing” on Palm Beach Central or William T. Dwyer High School, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Teri Barbera told the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
The attack did cause the district to cancel later sporting events and plan for new security measures in the future, not to mention bringing panic to hundreds of students in the stadium for the pre-season game.
The decision over what to call just one incident has far-reaching impacts. It raises questions on what’s considered a school shooting — a definition that plays an important role in the national conversation surrounding school safety and the policies put in place to boost it. And in Florida, the same state shaken up by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in February, the controversy is especially intense.
Everytown for Gun Safety, which pushes for tighter gun restrictions, defines a school shooting as “every time a firearm discharges a live round inside or into a school building or on a school campus or grounds.” Others say certain situations, like suicides or confrontations that end in shots fired, shouldn’t be counted, ThinkProgress notes.
Incidents of gun violence — including the deadly Parkland massacre and other mass school shootings, like one in Newtown, Conn., in 2012 and another in Santa Fe, Texas, earlier this year — that took place inside school buildings, however, have served as cornerstone events in ongoing battles around school safety and gun control. These events have prompted the creation of a federal safety commission, chaired by U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, which has held several public listening sessions since June.
So far, the commission has discussed increasing school funding, upgrading classroom door locks and cameras, improving access to mental health services, and adding school resource officers. What it hasn’t talked about: other types of attacks, like those that happen after the final bell rings, Education Week reports.
And with certain gun-related events not included in the scope of what constitutes a "school shooting," a narrowed definition shapes the conversation and response to an issue that’s left more than a third of parents fearing their kids aren’t safe at school.