Shootings inside Michigan schools remain rare

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — While shootings near schools in high-crime neighborhoods are fairly common, even in the most violent big city in the United States, incidents inside schools in Michigan are rare.

The Detroit school district began using metal detectors at building entrances in 1985, although there have been a few shootings inside Detroit facilities since then.

Other school shootings in Michigan in recent decades include a 1993 incident involving a Chelsea science teacher who killed his school's superintendent and wounded two others, and a 6-year-old boy who killed a 6-year-old girl with a gun he brought to school near Flint.

The deadliest incident of school violence in U.S. history remains the May 18, 1927 Bath School bombing in Bath Township, near Lansing, where disgruntled school board treasurer Andrew Kehoe killed 38 children and six adults with a homemade explosive and wounded many others.

The Detroit News, March 28, 1995

Among the shootings over the past 30 years inside Michigan schools:

  • Nov. 4, 1992: Six students were shot inside Finney High School, part of that day's wave of violence that saw 10 students shot at or near three Detroit schools.
  • Dec. 16, 1993: Chelsea High School science teacher Stephen Leith fatally shot School Superintendent Joseph Piasecki and wounded two other faculty members in the school’s Administration Building.
  • March 27, 1995: Three teens were shot in gang-related incidents inside Pershing and Denby high schools in Detroit.
  • Feb. 29, 2000: A six-year-old brought a gun to Buell Elementary School near Flint and killed six-year-old Kayla Renee Rolland of Mount Morris Township.
  • Feb. 17, 2009: An argument between a student and another teen sparked a shooting inside Detroit Central High School. Two students were injured.

In the 1992 Finney High School shooting, as students were going from third hour to fourth hour classes, the incident began reportedly as retaliation for a fight at a football game. The three gunmen had been beaten up at the game between Finney and Cody high schools, police said.

In the 2000 shooting, the first-graders at Theo J. Buell Elementary were walking to the library when a boy and girl who'd fought the day before on the playground began arguing again. A six-year-old boy pulled a .32-caliber Davis Industries pistol from his pocket and shot Kayla Rolland, also six, in the neck. She died less than an hour later. 

Jamelle James, the shooter's uncle who had left the pistol inside a shoebox in his bedroom, pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter and spent more than two years in prison before he was released on probation.

Shootings that occurred near Michigan schools include:

  • June 9, 1992: Detroit Webber Middle School teacher Betty Roberson was killed in the school’s parking lot.
  • March 7, 2007: A 17-year-old student shot his ex-girlfriend four times outside Midland H.H. Dow High School, then killed himself.
  • Oct. 15, 2008: A gang-related shooting outside Detroit Henry Ford High School left 16-year-old student Christopher Walker dead and three others injured.
  • Sept. 17, 2013: Four teens were wounded in a shootout about two blocks from Lansing's Sexton High School. 
  • Oct. 22, 2019: A 20-year-old man was injured after a shooting in the playground of Poupard Elementary School in Harper Woods

According to Education Week, which tracks school shootings, there have been 28 school shootings this year, 20 of which happened since Aug. 1. There have been 86 school shootings since 2018.

"The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have interrupted the trend line," the website said. "The 2020 figure, with 10 shootings, was significantly lower than 2019 and 2018, which each had 24."