Students’ 8 leading safety concerns, other than COVID

Students want their schools to provide more mental health resources, a survey has found
By: | October 21, 2020
Students want to have more voice in developing school safety policies, according to a survey by the ACT testing organization. (GettyImages/Jonathan Kirn)Students want to have more voice in developing school safety policies, according to a survey by the ACT testing organization. (GettyImages/Jonathan Kirn)

While most high school students report feeling safe in their schools, ACT test-takers said in a survey that administrators could do more to protect them.

While 75% of students said they felt safe, they also want their schools to provide more mental health resources and they also want to have more voice in decisions that impact them, according to “What Do Students Say About School Safety” by ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning.

“Students’ voices are a critical input in conversations about school safety,” said Tina Gridiron, vice president of ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning. “School policies disproportionately affect students of color and that can lead to their feeling unsafe at school—and be a barrier to their learning and success.”

In the survey, conducted pre-COVID in 2018, students said they were most concerned about traveling outside between buildings and being in classrooms with doors that aren’t locked.


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They also felt that there were not adequate plans for emergencies or drills, and that staff did not do enough about threats against schools.

Focus on student mental health

Some 17% of students said their schools need more counselors. The respondents also said they would feel safer if school counselors could provide basic therapy, rather than simply providing referrals to outside care providers.

ACT safety report series

Here are two earlier reports from ACT’s series:

Only 9% of students reported feeling unsafe in schools. These teens were concerned about homophobic and racist incidents, such as other students wearing confederacy-related clothing.

These students want administrators to do more address racial insensitivity.

Finally, 67% of students said they did not want teachers or administrators to be trained to carry guns. Students of color were more likely to oppose guns in schools.

About 20% of students supported the idea of educators carrying firearms.

The survey made the following recommendations to improve school safety:

  • Federal and state funding should expand mental health services, particularly as the COVID pandemic has almost certainly intensified students’ need for support.
  • Decisionmakers should gather students’ input when developing new safety policies. Students in the survey also reported that some school safety measures need to be discontinued.

More from DA: COVID survey shows anxiety and optimism in high school