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Poll: Parents Concerned for Student Safety but Generally Against Arming Teachers

After a year marked by some of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history, parents are more concerned than ever about the safety of their children, according to a special school security survey conducted as part of this year’s PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.

Public opinion on arming teachers is divided, and confidence in schools’ security against attacks is waning. Two thirds of parents with children in public school said they would rather not have their child in a classroom with an armed teacher; that number jumps to 80% of Black and Hispanic parents. But when asked if they support arming teachers who are also provided 80 hours of intensive training and support, parents are evenly split.

Alternative initiatives have more support, such as adding more armed guards and metal detectors to schools. Even more popular among respondents is spending on mental health screenings for all students. When faced with the choice of spending money on either armed guards in school or mental health services for students, three quarters of respondents chose mental health services.

Just 27% of K-12 parents believe their children’s school could deter a school shooting like one of nearly two dozen that have taken place thus far in 2018. One parent in three fears for their child’s safety at school, a significant jump from the 12% reported 5 years ago. Responses vary widely among different groups, though, with women, urban residents, Democrats, and low-income parents more concerned than their counterparts.

AACTE has also joined in support of students, teachers, and activists in their efforts to preserve the safety of the classroom. An initiative is under way to share resources and collect stories from AACTE members related to school safety. An AACTE School Safety Toolkit has also been assembled to help promote safety measures and advocate against school violence.

The PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools has been the defining public opinion survey in the United States for the past 50 years. View the special school security report here, or browse the timeline of every poll since the first one in 1969. The full 2018 poll comes out August 27.

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Jerry Stephens

AACTE Intern


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