The U.S. Education Department official report on the number of incidents involving a school shooting are much higher than can be confirmed, NPR reported on Tuesday.
The extremely inaccurate report comes at a time, NPR stated, when the need for clear data on school violence is very pressing as students nationwide return to classes in the aftermath of the most recent mass shootings in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas.
In addition, more than 50 new school safety laws have been passed in states this year, and districts are spending millions of dollars to "harden" schools with new security measures and equipment.
The Education Department report, released in the spring, said that in the 2015-2016 school year, "nearly 240 schools ... reported at least one incident involving a school-related shooting," but NPR checked with every one of those schools repeatedly over the course of three months and found out that at least more than two-thirds of these reported incidents never happened.
Together with Child Trends, a nonpartisan nonprofit research organization, NPR was able to confirm just 11 reported incidents, either directly with schools or through media reports, while in 161 cases, schools or districts said no incident took place or couldn't confirm one.
In at least four cases, schools said something did happen, but the incident didn't meet the government's criteria for a shooting, while approximately a quarter of schools didn't respond.
When asked about the discrepancy, the Education Department said it relies on school districts to provide accurate information in the survey responses and that it will update some of these data later this fall.
These inaccuracies illustrate how researchers, educators and policymakers are hindered by a lack of accurate data on gun violence, NPR said.
Studies other than the NPR research have also shown the official government report is extremely inaccurate.
The Everytown for Gun Safety database, which cites media reports, included only 29 shootings at schools between mid-August 2015 and June 2016, with only seven schools appearing on both this list and government's.
And another report, by the ACLU of Southern California, found that 59 percent of the shooting incidents on the government report were confirmed errors.
Less than a dozen of the reported incidents were actually confirmed.
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