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Reports & Research

July 17, 2018

Parents Prefer Armed Police, Mental Health Screenings, Metal Detectors
Arming Teachers, Staff Trails Other Security Measures In Latest School Safety Poll

After a school year marked by two of the deadliest school shootings in American history, parents’ fear for their children’s safety at school is at its highest point in two decades. But the public is skeptical that arming teachers or staff is the answer, broadly preferring measures such as armed police, mental health screenings, or metal detectors.

Strikingly, two-thirds of public school parents would prefer that their child’s teacher not carry a gun, including more than 80 percent of black and Hispanic parents.

These are just some of the findings from the latest edition of the annual Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, the defining public opinion survey on American public education for the past 50 years. This year, PDK has elected to make results on school safety and guns available before the full poll results, which will be released in late August.

“These results are clear about two things: A third of all public school parents fear for their child’s physical safety at school, a disturbing number to express such a fundamental concern, but large majorities of parents agree on some possible solutions,” said Joshua P. Starr, the chief executive officer of PDK International. “We hope these results will be used to inform policy and activities around the critical issue of school safety.”

While 63 percent of parents oppose allowing teachers and school staff to carry guns, that shifts to essentially an even split when training and oversight - specifically, 80 hours of training on the use of force, weapons proficiency, legal issues, and first aid - are required before such staff can be armed at school.

Parents’ views on school security measures vary significantly by political ideology, race, and location. Ninety-two percent of Republican parents support armed police in schools, for example, compared with 75 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of independents. Metal detectors at school entrances are much more popular among noncollege-educated, nonwhite, and lower-income parents, with about half or more “strongly” favoring them.

Lower-income and nonwhite parents are also considerably more likely to say they are afraid for their child’s safety at school, at 48 percent and 41 percent, respectively.

“It’s clear from the results that in many communities in the country, school safety is an urgent concern for parents,” Starr added. “By and large, those parents want to strengthen existing systems of security - using metal detectors at entrances, counseling for troubled students - rather than having teachers and staff carry guns in schools without plenty of screening.”

The full results of the 50th annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, including results on other education issues will be released in late August. In the lead-up to the release of the 2018 results, PDK is publishing a timeline of results from every year dating back to the first poll in 1969. That timeline is available at

PDK has surveyed the American public every year since 1969 to assess public opinion about public schools. Langer Research Associates of New York City produced the 2018 survey. It is based on a random, nationally representative sample of 1,042 adults - including an oversample to 515 parents of school-age children - conducted via the online GfK KnowledgePanel® platform. The margin of sampling error is ±3.89 percentage points for the full sample, including the design effect. Error margins are larger for subgroups such as the sample of parents. Additional poll data are available at ;

Source:  PDK International

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