Parents are more worried about their children’s safety at school than at anytime in the past 20 years, according to a new national poll released Tuesday. But a majority still oppose putting armed teachers in classrooms.
Fewer than a third of parents said they were very confident their children’s schools could deter a shooting, the PDK Poll found, and 34 percent said they feared for their kids’ safety on campus. In 2013, only 12 percent had reported feeling afraid for their kids.
A strong majority of American parents said that rather than armed teachers, they’d support spending money on school police officers, student mental-health services and campus metal detectors, the poll found.
Pollsters found the results from the 2018 school safety questions so powerful they decided to release that data Tuesday, before the full results from 50th annual PDK Poll are to be published next month. The yearly poll aims to judge the public’s view of public schools.
The new PDK Poll was taken after the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings, which killed 17 students and teachers.
The poll found only 26 percent of parents favor arming school staff. Thirty-six percent felt the armed staff would actually put students at risk. The majority, 63 percent, opposed arming teachers, but there was strong support, 80 percent, for school police officers.
In Broward, the school district plans to hire “armed guardians,” or security guards to protect schools that don’t have a police officer. The school district requires applicants to be at least 21 and have a minimum of two years of military or sworn law enforcement experience to hold the newly created job, which pays $25,000 to $33,000 a year. So far, the district is finding few qualified applicants.
The Palm Beach County School District decided against hiring these guards and is working to add 108 officers to its 152-officer force. Miami-Dade school police is also planning to hire 100 new officers for the school year that starts next month.
South Florida’s schools will see numerous new obstacles to schools’ entries next month as a way to thwart a potential attacker. Many are getting single entry points so the front office can easily communicate with anyone who wants to enter. Others are getting new door locks, fences and security cameras.
The poll’s authors called it disturbing that one in three parents feared for their children’s safety on campus and expressed such a “fundamental concern” about schools. They said parents with lower incomes, those who lived in urban areas and those who were not white were the most fearful.
Fears about school safety were worse in 1998, they noted, when two school shootings — one in Arkansas and one in Oregon — prompted widespread media coverage. But by 2013, only 12 percent of parents reported being fearful, meaning this year’s 34 percent represents a “steep increase” from five years ago.