- Students are dissatisfied with the state of school safety and see it very differently from educators and parents.
- Our current state of readiness against safety threats is too narrow, with not enough input from the entire school community.
- A difference in safety perceptions exists among schools with fewer than 500 students.
NEWTOWN, Conn.—May 7, 2018—Safe and Sound Schools (SASS), a nonprofit organization that delivers crisis-prevention, response and recovery programs for schools, today published its “State of School Safety Report 2018,” the results of its first-ever survey exploring perceptions of safety at schools among parents, students, educators, and the general public. The findings outline perceptions among stakeholders, and looks at the current state of threats, from threats received to future threats, as well as preparedness for those safety risks.
The first major finding of the survey is that a substantial communication gap exists between educators and other stakeholders, namely parents and students. Educators are more confident in their overall preparedness, safety and ability to handle a wide array of safety threats, perceived shortcomings, expertise and communications than other stakeholder groups. This confidence, however, translates into a knowledge gap for others in the school community.
“The State of School Safety survey points to the need for educators and administrators to focus on simple, honest communication to parents and students, and listen more to their concerns and feedback,” said Michele Gay, executive director and co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools. “Opening up avenues for communication will empower school communities to bring to light additional vulnerabilities and solutions, speed up implementation of safety initiatives and reduce anxiety associated with lack of knowledge.”
In this figure from the State of School Safety Report, we see educators report higher levels of feeling “extremely or very safe” with their level of preparedness for any safety incident, as compared to parents, students, and the general community.
Additional survey highlights include:
- Students deserve a seat at the school-safety table. Only half of students surveyed feel safe when they are at school. Students also believe their school is in denial that it could be in danger, and more than half of students surveyed think there is a lack of awareness about school safety issues and that their school has a false sense of security that things happening around the country couldn’t happen in their school.
- Threat assessment must be broadened beyond school-based shootings to include other common threats to school safety. These include bullying, weather, physical abuse, suicide, and racially- or minority-focused vandalism. All four respondent groups reported having seen more of these threats than other threats.
- Schools need to involve a team of experts in planning. When asked who is responsible for school safety in their communities, parents, students, educators and general community members had different rankings, assigning different levels of accountability among the wide range of school safety stakeholders. By bringing together experts in mental health and wellness, school resource officers, public safety officials, students, parents and school-based teachers and staff, school communities can garner greater awareness for what is working—and what is not—in school safety.
- A difference in safety perceptions exists among schools with fewer than 500 students. Educators at small schools—those with fewer than 500 students—report that students feel safe at school at a higher rate than their peers at larger schools. However, students at smaller schools are also less aware of their schools’ safety team and report constrained financial resources.
Michele Gay and Alissa Parker founded Safe and Sound Schools on May 3, 2013, after their respective daughters, Josephine Gay and Emilie Parker, were killed in the tragic Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Conn. The State of School Safety Report marks the fifth anniversary of the organization’s founding, and highlights progress made and opportunities for improvement in school safety. The survey, conducted in early 2018, received 2,872 respondents across four main stakeholder groups: parents of students, students in middle or high school, educators (teachers and other professionals working in schools), and the public at large.
“We live in a climate of anxiety, fear and frustration when it comes to school safety, yet the people who matter most aren’t necessarily heard from,” said Alissa Parker, co-founder of SASS. “Our report has the power to be incredibly instructive for schools across the U.S., as we’ve identified opportunities for near-term improvements. Most important, it shows that we need to give teachers, students, educators and communities the space to bring their insight and ideas to the table in conversations about their school safety plans. By improving communication among a wider range of stakeholders, we can inherently improve our expertise and training.”
Safe and Sound Schools will continue its work to improve overall awareness and resources supporting crisis prevention, response and recovery for improved school safety. To read the full report, please visit the Safe and Sound Schools research page: safeandsoundschools.org/research.
About Safe and Sound Schools
Founded in 2013, Safe and Sound Schools works with school communities and mental health, law enforcement, and safety professionals to create and ensure the safest possible learning environment for all youth. The non-profit organization, started by parents who lost their children in the tragedy at Sandy Hook, delivers crisis-prevention, response, and recovery programs, tools, and resources, backed by national experts, to educate all members of the school community, from students and parents, to teachers and administrators, to law enforcement and local leaders. Winner of the 2015 SBANE New England Innovation Award for nonprofits, Safe and Sound Schools continues to answer the growing needs of school communities with custom programs, assessments, and training, reaching schools in every state in the country. For more information, visit safeandsoundschools.org.