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Security History: The Bath School Bombing

​​​​On 18 May 1927, the Bath, Michigan, school bombing took the lives of 44 people, making it the deadliest incident of school violence in American history. The bombing occurred on the last day of class for the school’s 314 students—many of whom were the children of farmers from around the small village of Bath. Thirty-eight students died in the attack. 

A school janitor and school board member named Andrew Kehoe set off 500 pounds of dynamite; another 500 pounds failed to ignite. As attempts were made to pull victims from the rubble, Kehoe drove up to the school and fired a rifle into his vehicle, which was laden with more dynamite and shrapnel, killing himself and several others.

Prior to the bombing and suicide, Kehoe had killed his wife and two horses and set fire to his farmhouse. He had previously abused animals, killed his neighbor’s dog, and argued with other members of the school board over the cost of taxes for the consolidated school.

The Bath Michigan School Massacre made national news, but it was drowned in the publicity of Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight two days later.

The parallels between contemporary mass murders and the Bath School Bombing are readily apparent. They illustrate once more that “the only thing new is the history we haven’t learned.”

On the anniversary of the Bath School bombing (18 May 2018), ASIS Chapter 79 (Central Pennsylvania) held a school security seminar at the Milton Hershey School in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Speakers included first responders, mass violence consultants, behavioral analysts, and security technology experts. The seminar attracted local news coverage and active participation.

The Central Pennsylvania seminar illustrates how chapters can use historical anniversary dates to more effectively publicize seminars and meetings. Holding meetings and other chapter events on anniversary dates opens up publicity channels with history groups and educational institutions. This strategy creates extensive opportunities and is deserving of discussion.

Chris Hertig, CPP, CPOI (Certified Protection Officer Instructor), has had a lifelong interest in American history. He is a member of the York, Pennsylvania, History Writers Roundtable and the ASIS International Professional Development Council.​