Survey Shows School Safety Worries Among Parents Reached 20-Year High—Here's What Will Help

A study conducted by Gallup shows school safety worries among parents are the highest they've been in over two decades, but parents have control over ways to reduce violence in schools.

College students walking on campus, rear view
Photo: Getty

As children in the U.S. head back to school for the 2022-2023 school year, a survey conducted earlier last month shows that many parents are uneasy about it. The survey conducted by Gallup found that 44% of parents with a child in kindergarten through grade 12 say they fear for their children's physical safety while at school. This is the highest percentage in over two decades but still below the record high which was 55% after 13 people were killed during the Columbine High School shooting.

Understandably so, when you take into account that the Robb Elementary School shooting was just three months ago where 19 children and two adults lost their lives. And since then there were also high profile mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and during a July Fourth Parade in Highland Park, Illinois. The 10% increase in the percentage of fear is among one of the highest in the 24-year trend of Gallup's surveys. It is an unfortunate reality that in one of the places our children should be the safest, parents are worried about whether or not their children will be okay.

The findings from the survey leave many to wonder what we as parents can do to alleviate the fear we have of leaving our children in someone else's hands. Realistically for many, keeping children home so we can watch and teach them ourselves is not a feasible option. So those unable to make the switch to homeschooling have been left to take matters into their own hands. Some parents added bulletproof backpacks and backpack inserts to their school supply lists this year. Others have decided to reinforce active shooter drill practice at home in preparation for heading back to school.

Cassie Walton recently went viral on TikTok after sharing a video of her practicing an active shooter drill with her son who is entering kindergarten. She can be heard asking her son questions like what he would do if someone at school says over the intercom "this is not a drill," and what he would do if the police are outside the door, but the shooter is in his classroom.

Thankfully Cassie's version of the drill is pretty calm because the AAP recommended against high intensity active shooter drills in the classroom. Schools should not simulate an active shooter situation when conducting their drills and instead should conduct drills similar to the way fire drills are conducted. In short, we should be doing absolutely everything that we can to reduce the possibility of traumatizing our kids in their place of learning because according to a different question answered on Gallup's survey, 20% of K-12 students are already afraid to be there.

Rather than just letting our anxiety build, or creating new anxieties for everyone, there are things we can do today to provide our children and the next generation of children with a safe learning environment. Parents can advocate for social-emotional learning (SEL) in their child's classroom and implement it in practice at home. SEL can reduce aggression and violent behavior as well as teach kids how to understand and manage their emotions.

At the very minimum, we need to vote for our elected officials. This means voting in elections of every size and voting knowledgeably. Support candidates who make public safety (and gun sense) a priority. You can also research running for office yourself, supporting and getting involved in organizations that speak out about gun violence prevention and just make the effort to educate yourself and your neighbors on gun safety in the home.

Fear is valid, but channeling that fear into action will help us make a difference.

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