The World's Deadliest School Massacres

By Oishimaya Sen Nag on August 1 2017 in Society

A monument to those who helped children held hostage in the horrifying school massacre in Beslan, Russia.
A monument to those who helped children held hostage in the horrifying school massacre in Beslan, Russia.
  • The three-day long Beslan School siege started on September 1, 2004, and involved the imprisonment of 1,100 people including 777 children as hostages.
  • On December 16, 2014, Pakistan witnessed a horrifying terror attack that resulted in the death of 141 people including 132 school children between ages eight and eighteen.
  • The Virginia Tech Shooting was one of the deadliest single- gunman shooting incidents in the history of the US.

Children are considered to by symbols of purity and innocence. Yet, there are people who do not think twice before taking the life of a child. And there are some that go on a rampage to kill hundreds of children at one go. Calling them monsters would probably be more appropriate. Throughout history, and especially in modern times, many incidents of shootings and other types of mass killings of children or young adults in educational institutions like schools and colleges have taken place. The perpetrators of such crimes have had various motives for their heinous acts. Below is a table listing the 50 deadliest massacres recorded in educational institutions across the world. Some of these disasters have been described below:

10. University of Texas Massacre

A horrifying attack claimed many innocent lives on August 1, 1966 when Charles Whitman, a former Marine sharpshooter, climbed to the observation deck at the top of the Main Building tower of the The University of Texas at Austin and indiscriminately shot people below. Using his rifles and other weapons, he managed to kill 14 people in 96 minutes and injure 31 others. One of the injured succumbed to the incurred wounds a few years later. Whitman was stopped only when the police shot him dead. Earlier that day, he had also killed his wife and mother at home. It is suggested that a small tumor found on his brain after autopsy triggered his violent impulses.

9. Erfurt massacre

Gutenberg Gymnasium. Image credit: ASK/Wikimedia.org
Gutenberg Gymnasium. Image credit: ASK/Wikimedia.org

The Erfurt massacre occurred on April 26, 2002. It involved the killing of 16 people at the Gutenberg-Gymnasium, a secondary school in Erfurt, Germany, by a 19-year-old expelled student, Robert Steinhäuser. The victims included 13 members of staff, two students, and a police officer. The student himself died by committing suicide. It was believed that the killings were motivated by a desire of revenge felt by Steinhäuser, who had been expelled from the school.

8. Dunblane school massacre

The deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United Kingdom, the Dunblane school massacre, involved the killing of 16 children and one teacher at the Dunblane Primary School in Scotland. The event happened on March 13, 1996, and the attack was carried out by gunman Thomas Hamilton who ended the massacre by killing himself. The massacre sparked a huge public debate about gun control laws in the country and resulted in two new Firearms Acts that greatly restricted the ownership of firearms in the country.

7. Sandy Hook shooting

Police arrive at Sandy Hook Elementary, after the shooting on December 14, 2012. Image credit: VOA/Public domain
Police arrive at Sandy Hook Elementary, after the shooting on December 14, 2012. Image credit: VOA/Public domain

On December 14, 2012, a 20-year-old young man named Adam Lanza stormed into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and fatally shot 20 schoolchildren and six adult school staffs. Before arriving at the school, he had also shot his own mother. He ended the horrifying incident by killing himself.

6. Ma'alot massacre

The massacre was a Palestinian terrorist attack that happened over a period of two days in May 1974. It all started when three terrorists from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine entered Israel via Lebanon. They first killed two Israeli Arab women riding on a van and then attacked an apartment building where they killed a couple and their young son. Next, the attackers attacked the Netiv Meir Elementary School in Ma’alot where they took more than 115 people hostage. A large number of the hostages were teenagers from a high school in Safad visiting Ma’alot on a school trip. The terrorists demanded the release of 23 Palestinian militants imprisoned in Israel. On the second day, the building was stormed by the Israeli Golani Brigade and in the deadly encounter that followed, 22 children and 3 adults lost their lives and 68 more were injured.

5. Virginia Tech shooting

Permanent memorial on Virginia Tech's Drillfield. Image credit: Wikimedia.org
Permanent memorial on Virginia Tech's Drillfield. Image credit: Wikimedia.org

The Virginia Tech Shooting was one of the deadliest single- gunman shooting incidents in the history of the US. On April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Virginia, US, shot 32 people and injured 17 others in two separate attacks two hours apart before committing suicide.

Cho had earlier been diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder and had received therapy during his school years. However, the federal privacy laws kept Virginia Tech in the dark about Cho’s disorder. Also, in 2005, he was accused of stalking two female students and was declared mentally ill by a Virginia special justice. However, since he was not institutionalized, he still could legally own arms. The killing thus brought to light several loopholes in the US gun laws and privacy laws and sparked heavy debates regarding the same.

4. Bath School disaster

Front view of the school building after the bombing. Image credit: National Editorial Association/Associated Press/Public domain
Front view of the school building after the bombing. Image credit: National Editorial Association/Associated Press/Public domain

On May 18, 1927, Andrew Kehoe, the 55-year-old school board treasurer of the Bath Consolidated School in Bath Township, Michigan committed a crime that only a few can imagine. Kehoe was angered by increased taxes and was fuming for revenge at his defeat in the Spring 1926 election for township clerk. For months, he planned out a revenge attack that would become the deadliest school mass murder case in the United States. On May 18, Kehoe first killed his wife who had just returned from hospital after an undefined illness. He then firebombed his farm. At the same time, he also detonated an explosion at the Bath Consolidated School that killed 38 elementary schoolchildren and 6 adults. Finally, he committed suicide by detonating another bomb in a truck.

3. Peshawar massacre

Candlelight vigil in London for the victims of the Peshawar school. Image credit: Kashif Haque/Wikimedia.org
Candlelight vigil in London for the victims of the Peshawar school. Image credit: Kashif Haque/Wikimedia.org

On December 16, 2014, Pakistan witnessed a horrifying terror attack that resulted in the death of 141 people including 132 school children between ages eight and eighteen. The attack was carried out by gunmen affiliated to the terrorist organization Tehrik-i-Taliban. The attackers barged into the Army Public School in Pakistan’s Peshawar city and opened fire on students and staff of the school. The Pakistan Army's Special Services Group launched a counter-attack that killed all the seven terrorists and rescued 960 people.

The attack shook the whole country and angered people across the world at the cowardly act of killing innocent children. After this attack, Pakistan lifted its moratorium on the death penalty, initiated a constitutional amendment that authorized the military courts to try civilians, and also intensified the War in North-West Pakistan. Four more militants connected to the Peshawar attack were hanged and the mastermind of the attack was killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan.

2. Garissa University College attack

In one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Kenya, 148 people were killed and nearly 79 more injured when terrorists stormed into the Garissa University College in Garissa on April 2, 2015. The terrorists took over 700 students as hostages and while they freed the Muslims, they killed those who identified themselves as Christians. A militant group Al-Shabaab, an offshoot of Al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack. The security forces were able to end the siege after killing all the four attackers. Later, five more men were arrested and a bounty was placed to catch the suspected mastermind behind the attack.

1. Beslan massacre

Photos of the victims at Beslan school. Image credit: Aaron bird/Wikimedia.org
Photos of the victims at Beslan school. Image credit: Aaron bird/Wikimedia.org

The three-day long Beslan School siege started on September 1, 2004, and involved the imprisonment of 1,100 people including 777 children as hostages. The event was initiated by a group of armed Islamic Groups when they captured the School Number One (SNO) in the Beslan town of North Ossetia. The Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev was the mastermind behind the act and sent the Riyadus-Salikhin Battalion to carry out the terrorist activity. The hostage takers demanded the retreat of the Russians from Chechnya and the independence of Chechnya.

On the third day, Russian forces stormed the school building with the use of incendiary rockets, tanks, and other heavy weapons. 330 hostages including 186 children lost their lives in the attack. Several more were reported injured and some went missing.

The event led to massive political and security repercussions in Russia and was followed by a series of government reforms that strengthened the power of the Russian President and vested more powers in the Kremlin.

The World's Deadliest Massacres At Educational Institutions

RankNameDateYearLocationCountryKilled
1Beslan school siegeSep 12004Beslan, North Ossetia-Alania Russia385
2Walisongo school massacreMay 282000Central Sulawesi Indonesia165–191
3Eastern University massacreSep 51990Chenkalady Sri Lanka158
4Peshawar massacreDec 162014Peshawar Pakistan149
5Garissa University College attackApr 22015Garissa Kenya148
6Kyanguli Fire TragedyMar 242001Machakos County Kenya67
7Thammasat University massacreOct 61976Sanam Luang Thailand46-100+
8Bath School disasterMay 181927Bath Township, MI United States45
9Yobe State school shootingJuly 62013Yobe State Nigeria42
10Virginia Tech shootingApril 162007Blacksburg, VA United States32
11Ma'alot massacreMay 151974Ma'alot Israel31
12Sandy Hook Elementary School shootingDec 142012Newtown, CT United States27
13Gîsca school bombingApril 41950GîscaUSSR23
14Bacha Khan University AttackJan 202016CharsaddaPakistan22+
15Kerch Polytechnic College attack[a]Oct 172018Kerch, Crimea Russia / Ukraine21
162004 Dhemaji school bombingAug 152004AssamIndia18
17University of Texas tower shootingAug 11966Austin, TX United States17
18Stoneman Douglas High School shootingFeb 142018Parkland, FL United States17
19Dunblane massacreMarch 131996Dunblane United Kingdom17
20Erfurt school massacreApril 262002Erfurt Germany16
21Winnenden school shootingMarch 112009Winnenden and Wendlingen Germany15
22École Polytechnique massacreDec 61989Montreal, QC Canada14
23Columbine High School massacreApril 201999Columbine, CO United States13
24Janaúba massacreOct 52017Janaúba Brazil13
25Chlef school attackOct 152002Chlef Province Algeria13
26Azerbaijan State Oil Academy shootingApril 302009Baku Azerbaijan12
27Rio de Janeiro school shootingApril 72011Rio de Janeiro Brazil12
28Shiguan kindergarten attackMay 82006Shiguan China12
29Cologne school massacreJune 111964Volkhoven West Germany10
30Suzano school shooting (Raul Brasil school)March 132019Suzano Brazil10
31Enoch Brown school massacreJuly 261764Pennsylvania United States10
32Santa Fe High School shootingMay 182018Texas United States10
33Kauhajoki school shootingSep 232008Kauhajoki Finland10
34Shengshui kindergarten attackMay 122010Linchang China9
35Umpqua Community College shootingOct 12015Roseburg, OR United States9
36Red Lake massacre[a]March 212005Red Lake, MN United States9
37Ruzhou school massacreNov 262004Ruzhou China9
38Osaka school massacreJune 82001Ikeda, Osaka Japan8
39Mercaz HaRav massacreMarch 62008Jerusalem Israel8
40Nanping school massacreMarch 232010Nanping China8
41Jokela school shootingNov 72007Jokela Finland8
42Lyamino SchoolFeb 111958Lyamino USSR7
43Burma school massacreMarch 261975Kachin Burma7
44Zhuping school massacreApril 11996Meitian China7
45Oikos University shootingApril 22012Oakland, CA United States7
46Anne Anne Kindergarten stabbingJune 31982Sham Shui Po Hong Kong6
47Isla Vista killingsMay 232014Isla Vista, CA United States6
48Sana'a school shootingMarch 301997Sanaa Yemen6
49Durvenitsa school massacreDec 241974Durvenitsa Bulgaria6
50Massacre in the Leningrad higher military political school of Ministry of Internal AffairsMay 191977Leningrad USSR6

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