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OLATHE, Kan. – Last Friday’s shooting at Olathe East High School marked the 18th school shooting in Kansas history, with the first reported school shooting occurring more than two decades ago, according to data from the Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS).

Three were injured at Olathe East last week after prosecutors say 18-year-old Jaylon Elmore was involved in an exchange of gunfire with a school resource officer. Elmore, Officer Erick Clark, and assistant principal Dr. Kaleb Stoppel were all struck in the shooting and hospitalized.

Elmore faces a charge of attempted capital murder.

Lawmakers and residents swiftly responded with urgent calls for enhanced mental health resources, security and gun prevention in Kansas schools. 

“It makes you want to bring your kids closer to you, you know, and seeing that bond with them, because you see that they can be here today and gone tomorrow,” Harvey Mitchell, whose son attends Olathe East, previously told FOX4.

But some still wonder how violence and education could ever share the same space, how we ever got to this point.

“Why? I don’t understand,” the mother of a freshman at Olathe East told FOX4 last week. “How did someone get in the school, enter the school, with a weapon?”

“I mean, how does that happen? I’m still distraught over it.”

School shootings in Kansas

The first reported school shooting in Kansas occurred in the hallways of Goddard Junior High School in 1985. 

Data shows 14-year-old James Alan Kearbey made prior threats to kill students, having revealed to a school counselor in 1982 that he had brought a gun to school to shoot students, but backed out of the plan.

Kearbey opened fire, killing the principal and injuring two teachers, as well as a student in the hallway, then fled school premises. Kearbey had been subjected to bullying and planned the shooting in advance, according to CHDS data. The agency says it was the only Kansas school shooting to involve bullying.

Prior to Friday’s shooting at Olathe East, the last reported school shooting occurred in September at Wichita East High School where three students were shot outside the school during lunch. Police said three suspects pulled into an alley and fired toward the victims, striking them.

Two of the suspects were taken to a local hospital with injuries that were not considered life-threatening. A third student later reported a graze wound to the school nurse.

“These are the headlines that every American is tired of reading, that everyone fears will come to their doorstep” Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kan., said in a speech on the House floor Wednesday morning. “We must step up mental health support in schools, not in just an aftermath of trauma, but permanently.”

“And I stand with every parent, educator, student and Kansan who has come together to call for gun safety. We have to be brave enough to put our kids’ lives first.”

Shooting statistics

Unlike Friday’s shooting, data shows the majority of school shootings in Kansas actually take place outside.

In fact, only 22% of school shootings in Kansas occur inside the premises, with roughly 72% of school shootings occurring in parking lots, football fields, outside the building, or off school property entirely. Only one reported shooting occurred on a school bus.

Of the 18 school shootings reported in Kansas, only two of those shootings occurred in a school hallway, including Friday’s shooting at Olathe East.

Not a single school in Kansas has been targeted twice by shooters.

“There’s no feeling to compare it to. When you get that message there is an active shooter at the school where you have a kiddo, your stomach drops,” Kansas state Sen. Cindy Holscher said Friday. “It is the most horrific, uneasy feeling to have as a parent.”

Over half of school shootings since 1985 occurred during school hours, data shows, with nearly 44% of shootings happening after hours. 

Fifty percent of shootings during this time occurred at a high school, with about 5% occurring at a junior high school, nearly 16% at middle schools, and roughly 22% at elementary schools.

“No kids should have to go through this in their lifetime,” Olathe East dad Glyde Elmore Sr. said. “No generation.”

Pushing for peace

Holscher said the Olathe East shooting solidifies her efforts to stricken gun control across the state, something she is already well known for.

“My phone has been ringing off the hook today. Parents are telling me they don’t want to wait for this to happen again,” she told FOX4 on Friday. “They don’t want to wait to have something even more serious happen than what happened today.”

“This is not normal, and we shouldn’t think of it as being normal.”

She said her life is forever changed after rushing to the school Friday to pick up her son, a freshman at Olathe East. She also said she is actively working to challenge legislation aimed at loosening firearm regulation

“This doesn’t happen in other industrialized nations,” she said. “This doesn’t happen in other civilized nations.”

“This is an issue here that we need to address.”

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