Four boys assaulted a teacher, who later died of her injuries. The well-publicized incident happened in 1870 in Canton, Ma., says New York University historian Jonathan Zimmerman in the Philadelphia Inquirer. School violence is itself a time-honored American tradition, Zimmerman says. Despite our nostalgia for the good old days, America’s schools have always been disorderly and violent places.
School violence in the U.S. spiked in the 1960s and early ’70s, echoing the overall rise of crime in the nation. Increasingly, it involved guns. By 1991, 26 percent of high school students reported that they had brought a weapon to school in the previous 30 days; of those, about a third said they had carried a gun. Contrary to public perceptions, most forms of school violence have decreased since the 1990s. So has the reported carrying of weapons, to about 18 percent of high school students. Roughly a third of those still carry guns, which remain the most common cause of youth homicide. The recent death of 16-year-old Derrion Albert in Chicago was an exception to the gun violence trend.