Nightly News   |  October 24, 2013

Students gather to remember math teacher Colleen Ritzer

Students in algebra class with suspect Philip Chism say she had asked him to stay after school to do extra work. NBC’s Brian Williams reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> there were no classes again today at danvers high school in massachusetts. many students and staff came to the school for counseling sessions b and to remember their popular math teacher, colleen ritzer allegedly murdered yesterday by a 14-year-old student. there was a candlelight vigil for ritzer last night. students in algebra class with philip chism said she asked him to stay after school to do extra work. danvers is the latest incident that's shattered the expectation that america's schools are safe havens . our chief education correspondent rehema ellis tonight tag takes a closer look at the facts about school violence .

>> reporter: two teachers killed at schools this week alone.

>> she was just a young caring girl that had the world ahead of her.

>> reporter: days before 24-year-old colleen ritzer died in massachusetts, a 12-year-old student opened fire in nevada.

>> two people are dead after a shooting at t a middle school .

>> reporter: killing michael lansbury and injuring two students before taking his life. in washington state an 11-year-old has been arrested after authorities discovered knives, a handgun and 400 rounds of ammunition. he allegedly brought it to his vancouver middle school . since the tragedy at sandy hook there have been 16 more school shootings . news headlines suggest these type of violent and often fatal events are occurring with increased frequency.

>> these events tend to come in clusters. there is a copycat element to them. they do come this in waves. but so do near misses. often when kids hear about these horrible things they come forward when they hear about plots.

>> reporter: the headlines tell a different story. the cdc reports the rate of youth homicides nationwide has declined substantially since the mid '90s and that less than 2% of the killings occur in schools where gun violence is just part of the problem. about 7% of teachers report being threatened or physically attacked by a student. when it comes to students, about 6% report missing at least one day of school because they felt unsafe. 5% say they have carried a weapon to school. schools are taking steps to improve safety. in many states, wireless panic alarms are being installed. in oklahoma, computers are being programmed allowing teachers to send emergency messages to patrol cars in the area. in california, some schools are even monitoring students' social media pages hoping to detect any signs of potential threats. it's a controversial move some say is necessary to protect everyone in schools. brian?

>> sad week in many school communities. rehema ellis, thank you, as always.