School Shootings, High School Size, and Neurobiological Considerations

  • David A. Kaiser


In the last decade 17 multiple-injury student school shootings have occurred in the United States, 13 at high schools and 4 at middle schools. Research suggests that high schools function best academically
as well as socially at enrollments around 600 (150 students per grade), the natural group size of humans. Eleven of 13 high school shootings occurred in schools with enrollments over 600 students, and many with over 1,000 students. Violent and antisocial behavior is associated with deficits in social information processing, which is necessarily exacerbated by complex social environments. School shootings may
be in part a response to the unprecedented social complexity of large
schools. Median public high school enrollment now stands at 1,200 in
suburbs and 1,600 in cities despite the fact that smaller schools are superior to large schools on nearly all academic and social measures of success including graduation rate, student satisfaction, conduct infractions, athletic participation, absenteeism, and dropout rate. Educational institutions should adapt to the neurobiological limitations of children instead of forcing children to adapt to the unnatural requirements of such institutions.