In their first weeks of school, several districts have already had to respond to a number of security threats, including bomb threats that force student and staff evacuation and class cancelations due to an escaped convicted murderer, you name it. It’s no wonder parents continue to be fearful of sending their children to school each day. Given the past few difficult years that plagued public education following a handful of devastating school shootings, it’ll be difficult for education leaders to instill that sense of hope and trust in families again.
These concerns were highlighted in a new Gallup poll published last week that serves as the most current snapshot of parents’ perceptions of K12 school safety as the 2023-24 school year begins. The most notable finding reveals a persistent fear among parents over their child’s safety, and it’s no surprise as to why.
According to the data, 38% of parents fear for their oldest child’s physical safety at school, a slight decrease from last year’s 44% in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas school shooting. The findings indicate that their worries sparked by Uvalde have ceased to wane.
“While parental concern is lower this year than last year, the 38% currently expressing fear exceeds what Gallup measured after the 2006 Amish schoolhouse shooting in Pennsylvania, the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut, and the 2018 Parkland High School shooting in Florida,” the poll reads.
Furthermore, 14% of K12 parents said their child has come to them about safety concerns in their school, which is down from last year’s 20%.
The big picture
What administrators and district leaders must understand is that parents are still much more likely to express concern about their child’s safety at school following the Uvalde school shooting. The researchers suggest these tragedies have a cumulative effect where parents’ concerns are even greater now than they were in the aftermath of these “high-profile school shooting tragedies.”
“Although the federal government took steps to address gun violence and school safety after Uvalde, the issue continues to be a problem,” the analysis reads. “More than 20 shootings have occurred on K12 school grounds so far this year, including one resulting in six deaths at a Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee, in March.”
As the 2023-24 school year continues, leaders must continue to prioritize the safety of their students and staff with an intense focus on training rather than relying on expensive equipment as their first line of defense.