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1 in 3 U.S. Parents Fears for Their Child’s Safety While at School

An annual PDK poll finds that parents lack strong confidence that schools can protect their children against school shootings but favor armed police, mental health screenings, and metal detectors more than arming teachers to protect their children.

The 50th annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools revealed that parents overwhelmingly support mental health screening of all students,armed police in the schools, and metal detectors at entrances. Support for allowing teachers and other school staff to carry guns is much lower — 67% of parents prefer not to have their child in a classroom where the teacher is armed, and 63% generally oppose allowing teachers and staff to carry guns. Still, that shifts to an even split if rigorous training and screening are provided. PDK is Phi Delta Kappa International, the association of professional educators.
Regardless, the survey found that most parents don’t believe that armed staff would make their child safer at school — just 26% say so vs. 36% who say students would be less safe. The rest see no difference.
A total of 72% of parents in the survey are less than extremely or very confident in their school’s security. Forty-one percent are “somewhat” confident and 31% are less confident than that. One in three parents, moreover, fears for their child’s physical safety in school, up sharply to a level last seen two decades ago.
Eighty percent of parents support armed police in the schools, 76% endorse mental health screening of all students, and 74% support placing metal detectors at school entrances. In addition, parents oppose allowing teachers and school staff to carry guns 63% to 37%. But support for allowing armed teachers and staff rises to 49% if training and screening programs are in place. Further, when faced with a choice of spending money on armed security officers in school or on mental health services for students, the public overwhelmingly prioritizes mental health services — 76% to 23% among all Americans and 71% to 28% among school parents.
Broadly, the survey finds opportunities for progress, with consensus across political lines relating to enhanced security and, most prominently, mental health screening and services. Views on arming teachers or other school staff, by contrast, are sharply partisan. Republicans are more amenable to the idea, particularly when training and screening are included, while most Democrats remain opposed, half strongly so.

Regarding arming teachers and staff, the survey found that 57% of Republican parents support allowing teachers or other school employees to carry guns vs. 39% of independents and just 17% of Democrats. Gun ownership is another dividing line; among those with a functioning gun at home, 55% support arming teachers and staff vs. 26% of those in households without a gun. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans prefer an armed teacher; 29% of independents and 10% of Democrats agree. Fifty-two percent of parents in gun-owning households favor the idea as do 46% of rural residents, 44% of conservatives, and 40% of whites.

While other initiatives garner wide support, there’s variation in the extent and strength of sentiment, said survey results. Ninety-two percent of Republicans support armed police in the school, for example, and 57% do so strongly. That compares with 75% of Democrats and 73% of independents, four in 10 strongly. Strong support for police in schools is 19 points higher among those without college degrees than those with them, 55% vs. 36% and 18 points higher among Southerners compared with those living elsewhere, 60% vs. 42%. Metal detectors are a more popular option among non-college-educated, nonwhite, and lower-income parents, with eight in 10 or more backing them, half or more doing so strongly. More Democrats support metal detectors than independents, 80% vs. 63%; Republicans fall in between at 75%.
Mental health screening of all students, by contrast, is supported by three-quarters to eight in 10 of nearly all groups. Hispanic parents stand out as particularly strong advocates, with 62% strongly for it, compared with three in 10 blacks and whites alike.emocratic parents are 24 points more
The survey also found that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to favor mental health screening over security officers, 83% vs. 59%.

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