In an era when the phrase “parents’ rights” blurs many K12 lines, superintendents and their teams can gather insights from the National PTA’s polling of an arguably less vocal majority.
First of all, parents—just like most K12 leaders—overwhelmingly agree that schools should provide emotional and mental health care to students. Most families also say children need opportunities to share their thoughts and feelings with trusted adults at school who are not their parents. A large majority of parents also want schools to foster safe learning environments that promote student voice and to use historically accurate educational materials, according to the National PTA’s latest survey of 1,400 parents and guardians.
In fact, 92% of parents think that all students should feel seen, heard and included at school, the survey found.
“It is also important that our families advocate for, and our children receive, culturally inclusive and historically accurate curriculum and educational materials,” says Anna King, president of the National PTA. “It is critical that all of us work together to create learning environments where all students feel safe, supported, seen and most importantly, heard.”
School violence and bullying remain parents’ top concerns, with six in 10 of the adults surveyed admitting that they’re often or sometimes worried about these threats. Parents’ fears of violence and bullying have increased more than any other concern since the National PTA launched this series of surveys in September 2021.
On a topic that administrators may find encouraging, parents are focused on curriculum—but not in the way that makes headlines these days. A large majority of parents say they intend to review their children’s textbooks and other learning materials at the beginning of the 2023-24 school year. However, the survey found parents are more likely to contact their child’s school if they believe there is something missing from the curriculum rather than if there are elements to which they object.
And most parents are keenly interested in summer programs and activities that keep their children physically active and interacting with other kids and that also support learning. Administrators should know, however, that the survey revealed a significant gap between parents’ interest in these programs and their ability to access them.
Here are more details of what parents had to say:
- 61% worry about their child experiencing violence at school and 57% of parents worry about their child being bullied
- 95% want to be notified if their child is receiving mental health support at school.
- 86% want their child to go to adults at school with problems or worries that they don’t feel comfortable sharing at home.
- 79% say schools to obtain parents’ consent before providing children with mental health support.
- 76% think school staff should be allowed to keep at least some things private from conversations with students.