Religion and Social Trends

Parents More Confident About Child Safety at School

One in four fear for physical safety of oldest child

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- With the beginning of school only weeks away, parents of children in kindergarten through high school (K-12) express the lowest level of fear about school safety that they have in three years. Also, according to a recent Gallup Poll, few K-12 parents report that their children are worried about feeling unsafe at school when it begins.

The poll, conducted Aug. 4-6, finds 24% of parents saying that when their oldest child is at school, they fear for his or her physical safety, while 76% say they do not.

Thinking about your oldest child, when he or she is at school, do you fear for his or her physical safety?
ASKED OF PARENTS OF K-12 CHILDREN

The question has been asked every August for five years, beginning in 1999 -- but it has also been asked at other times when school shootings have been in the news. Such incidents lead to temporary increases in parents' fear, followed some months later by a lower level of fear.

In June 1998, the question was asked within a few months of several shooting incidents across the country -- including incidents in Jonesboro, Arkansas (March 24), Edinboro, Pennsylvania (April 24), Pomona, California (April 28), Fayetteville, Tennessee (May 19), and Springfield, Oregon (May 21). In that June poll, 37% of parents said they feared for their child's safety at school, while 62% did not.

Parents' fear surged following the April 20, 1999, shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. A Gallup Poll taken the day after the incident showed 55% of K-12 parents expressing fear. By the end of April, the percentage had declined slightly to 49%. But after another shooting on May 20, this time at Heritage High School in Conyers, Georgia, a majority of parents (52%) again expressed fear.

By August 1999, the percentage of fearful parents had declined slightly to 47%, and by the following August it had declined to 26% -- only slightly above its current level.

Then on March 5, 2001, a teenager at Santana High School in San Diego, California, killed two students and wounded 13 people -- leading to another surge in parental fear (45%). By August 2001, fear had declined to 32%, where it remained essentially the same the following year (31%). This year's reading is similar to the reading of three years ago.

Few Children Express Concern

The poll shows that few parents report safety concerns by their children -- just 8% say their children have expressed worry about feeling unsafe when they go back to school, but 91% of parents say their children have no such worry.

Have any of your school-aged children expressed any worry or concern about feeling unsafe at their school when they go back to school this fall?
ASKED OF PARENTS OF K-12 CHILDREN

In August 1999, with the country still reeling from the shootings in Colorado and Georgia, 18% of parents reported that their children worried about their safety. The following year, the percentage had declined to just 8%.

But shortly after the Santana High School shooting in March 2001, more than a fifth of parents (22%) reported their children had expressed worry about safety at school. The most recent reading is similar to the one measured three years ago.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,003 national adults, aged 18+, conducted Aug. 4-6, 2003. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 284 parents with children in grades K-12, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

28. Thinking about your oldest child, when he or she is at school, do you fear for his or her physical safety?

BASED ON 284 K-12 PARENTS

 

Yes, fear

No, do not

No opinion

%

%

%

2003 Aug 4-6

All parents

24

76

*

Public school parents ^

26

74

*

2002 Aug 5-8

31

68

1

2001 Aug 16-19

32

68

0

2001 Mar 9-11

45

54

1

2000 Aug 24-27

26

74

0

2000 Apr 7-9

43

57

0

1999 Aug 24-26

47

53

*

1999 May 21-23

52

47

1

1999 Apr 26-27

49

51

*

1999 Apr 21

55

45

0

1998 Jun 5-7

37

62

1

1977 †

24

70

6

^

BASED ON 242 PUBLIC SCHOOL PARENTS; MoE: ±7 PCT. PTS.

Gallup for Kettering Foundation.



29. Have any of your school-aged children expressed any worry or concern about feeling unsafe at their school when they go back to school this fall?

BASED ON 284 K-12 PARENTS

 

Yes

No

No opinion

%

%

%

2003 Aug 4-6

All parents

8

91

1

Public school parents

9

90

1

2001 Mar 9-11 †

22

77

1

2000 Aug 24-27

8

92

*

1999 Aug 24-26

18

82

*

^

BASED ON 242 PUBLIC SCHOOL PARENTS; MoE: ±7 PCT. PTS.

WORDING: Have any of your school-aged children expressed any worry or concern about feeling unsafe at their school when they go to school?



* -- less than 0.5%

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/9094/Parents-More-Confident-About-Child-Safety-School.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030