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A Look at Violent Attacks on Campus

In nearly three-quarters of the incidents of targeted violence on college campuses, the person responsible was targeting a specific person or persons, a federal study says.

“Campus Attacks: Targeted Violence Affecting Institutions of Higher Education,” an examination of events from 1900 to 2008, says that in 198 of the 272 incidents, the violence was directed at specific individuals, and in most of those cases, those individuals were the only ones harmed.

The call for such a study came after the Virginia Tech shooting deaths in 2007, when the federal government sought to gather data on targeted violence on college campuses so it could better understand the scope of the problem. In April, the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service and Department of Education released their findings. The report defines “targeted violence” as an incident of violence where a known or knowable attacker selects a particular target prior to their violent attack.

As it tries to provide a context for understanding targeted violence, the report notes that each institution needs to be aware of its unique characteristics and prepare itself.

College campuses “essentially function as mini-societies that must deal with the same types of societal issues found in almost any city or town in the United States,” the study says. “Whether the setting is a more traditional campus with distinct boundaries, an urban campus that is interlaced within a larger community, or somewhere in between, most campuses must contend with their own social norms, economy and culture. (Colleges) must then establish an infrastructure capable of providing the necessary services, support and protection to students, staff, and others.”


To read more about the federal study of attacks on campuses, visit

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