When it comes to school security and safety, a recent annual, national poll showed that many Americans would prefer expanding mental health services at public schools instead of hiring more security guards.
This was among the many findings in the 45th edition of the PDK/Gallup Poll of the “Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.” Conducted annually by PDK International in conjunction with Gallup, the poll is the longest-running survey of American attitudes toward education. It provides an extensive and trusted repository of data documenting how the public’s viewpoint on public education has changed throughout the decades.
The poll dedicated a section to school security, and asked a number of questions related to student safety and arming teachers and administrators. The findings showed that 59 percent of respondents would prefer to see a school district expand mental health services for students, while 33 percent voted for hiring more security guards.
The results also showed the public’s shift toward preferring schools implementing building screening procedures similar to those in used in government buildings instead of relying on armed security guards. Fifty-seven percent said they agreed or strongly agreed on screening at the elementary level, while 62 percent agreed or strongly agreed on the same procedures for middle and high schools.
In response to a separate question, 35 percent supported placing armed security guards in elementary schools, and 48 percent supported this for middle and high schools.
Some of the highest “strongly disagree” percentages on the survey came in response to questions about arming teachers and administrators. Forty-seven percent strongly disagreed with arming elementary teachers and administrators, while 43 percent felt the same way about arming middle and high school teachers and administrators. In both instances, adding those who just “disagree” created clear majorities in opposition.
Aside from school safety, the poll surveyed respondents on important educational topics and initiatives, such as common core state standards, standardized tests, teacher evaluations and education for children of illegal immigrants. Some findings from the survey include:
- Most surveyed gave the nation’s public schools a “C” for quality as a whole, yet they gave their own local schools an “A” or “B”.
- Respondents expressed great trust and confidence in public school teachers and principals.
- Most respondents support the growth of charter schools and said they see nothing wrong with home schooling.
- Three of four Americans believe preschool programs for children from low-income households would help these same children preform better in school in their teenage years. In fact, the survey showed that almost two out of three Americans are willing to support these programs with taxes. These particular findings come when Head Start slots are being cut and states need additional support to build on and expand their own early-education programs.
The National PTA released a statement after the poll findings were released saying the results align with many of its top advocacy issues, demonstrating a clear role for parents in support of their child’s education. According to its statement, the group endorses efforts to establish comprehensive community mental health facilities to provide preventive and treatment services to children and adults.
“Families need to be engaged in developing policies intended to ensure our children’s safety at school,” wrote National PTA President Otha Thornton. “Sustained and meaningful family engagement ensures that every student has a voice and no young person is left without an advocate.”