The World's Deadliest School Massacres

The Beslan Massacre that took place in Beslan, Russia, on Sept. 1, 2004, and claimed the lives of 385 people including many students is by far the deadliest massacre conducted at an educational institute.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

What Was the Deadliest School Shooting of All Time?

The Beslan Massacre that took place in Beslan, Russia, on Sept. 1, 2004, and claimed the lives of 385 people including many students is by far the deadliest massacre conducted at an educational institute.

The World's Deadliest Massacres At Educational Institutions

1Beslan massacreSep. 12004Beslan, North Ossetia-Alania Russia385783
2Garissa University College attackApr. 22015Garissa Kenya14879
3Peshawar massacreDec. 162014PeshawarPakistan141121
4Bath School disasterMay 181927Bath Township, MI U.S.4458
5Virginia Tech shootingApril 162007Blacksburg, VA U.S.3217
6Ma'alot massacreMay 151974Ma'alot Israel3170
7Sandy Hook shootingDec. 142012Newtown, CT U.S.272
8Dunblane school massacreMarch 131996Dunblane U.K.1715
9Erfurt massacreApril 262002Erfurt Germany161
10University of Texas massacreAug. 11966Austin, TX U.S.1532
11Winnenden school shootingMarch 112009Winnenden and Wendlingen Germany159
12Montreal MassacreDec. 61989Montreal, QC Canada1414
13Columbine High School massacreApril 201999Columbine, CO U.S.1321
14Azerbaijan State Oil Academy shootingApril 302009Baku Azerbaijan1213
15Rio de Janeiro school shootingApril 72011Rio de Janeiro Brazil1212
16Shiguan kindergarten attackMay 82006Shiguan China125
17Cologne school massacreJune 111964Volkhoven West Germany1022
18Kauhajoki school shootingSep. 232008Kauhajoki Finland101
19Shengshui kindergarten attackMay 122010Linchang China911
20UCC shootingOct. 12015Roseburg, OR U.S.99

About the Author

Oishimaya is an Indian native, currently residing in Kolkata. She has earned her Ph.D. degree and is presently engaged in full-time freelance writing and editing. She is an avid reader and travel enthusiast and is sensitively aware of her surroundings, both locally and globally. She loves mingling with people of eclectic cultures and also participates in activities concerning wildlife conservation.


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