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Parent, Student School Safety Concerns Elevated

Parent, Student School Safety Concerns Elevated

Story Highlights

  • 44% of K-12 parents fear for their children's physical safety at school
  • Parental fear highest since 2001, but still below 55% record high
  • 20% of parents say their children have expressed worry about school safety

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. parents' concern for their children's physical safety at school has risen to its highest point in more than two decades, as 44% of U.S. adults with a child in kindergarten through 12th grade say they fear for their oldest child's personal safety at school. This marks a 10-percentage-point increase in concern since 2019, the last time the question was asked, and is among the highest readings in the 24-year trend.


The latest findings are from Gallup's Aug. 1-23 poll, which was conducted roughly three months after 19 children and two adults were fatally shot at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Several other high-profile mass shootings have occurred in 2022, including the murders of 10 people in a Buffalo, New York, grocery store and seven people at a July Fourth parade in Highland Park, Illinois.

Gallup's question about school safety does not specifically reference gun violence; however, parents' fear has spiked in the past after high-profile mass shootings and receded at times when recent school shootings weren't major news stories.

Parental fear hit its highest point in the trend, 55%, in April 1999, the day after 13 people were killed at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. When parents sent their children back to school that year, fear had fallen to 47%, and by August 2000, it had dropped to 26%.

But in the aftermath of a shooting at Santana High School in Santee, California, in March 2001, parents' concern about school safety surged to 45%. Between 2001 and 2019, readings fluctuated between 15% and 35%. (Gallup did not include this measure in 2020 or 2021 because the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in irregular in-person schooling in many areas of the country.)

K-12 Students' Fear Near Record High

Another question in the poll finds one in five K-12 parents saying their children have expressed worry about feeling unsafe when they return to school, an eight-point increase since 2019. The current reading ties the 2018 measure that was taken after school shootings in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas, earlier that year. These 20% readings are just shy of the record-high 22% in March 2001, immediately after the Santana High School shooting.


Bottom Line

As the 2022-2023 academic year gets underway, K-12 parents' concern about their children's safety has risen sharply after the last school year ended with a mass shooting tragedy in Uvalde. While more parents say they fear for their children's safety than say their children have expressed fear to them, both readings are elevated and on the high end of Gallup's prior findings.

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