How do students and parents perceive school safety?


By Jack McDermott (Marketing Manager) and Won Suh (Data Scientist) for Panorama Education, an ACSA Partner4Purpose

In recent years, bullying and violence have been at the forefront of media coverage on school safety. Yet for the vast majority of our nation’s schools, the learning environment is likely very safe. Creating safe schools is becoming especially important, as a growing body of research underscores that students learn better when they feel safe.

How safe are our schools?

We decided to put this question to the test. This platform supports thousands of schools through data analytics and feedback surveys. Many of these surveys focus on key topics of school climate like safety. With tens of thousands of data points, we can gain a broader and more quantitative view on the perceptions of our school’s stakeholders.

For our analysis, we chose to look at perceptions of school safety between parents and students. In doing so, one might expect to find that parents would respond to survey questions about school safety less favorably than students since parents engage with more media than their children.

After analyzing 59,000+ surveys, here’s what we found:

Through statistical analysis of survey data in 117 schools nationwide, students perceived school safety 9% less favorably than parents. This figure indicates a gap between how students feel about safety in their schools, and how parents feel about safety in these same schools. This trend continues across 62% of the schools in our study, which represent a mixed socio-economic, geographic, and racial composition from both urban and suburban communities.

What percentage of parents and students respond favorably to survey items on school safety?


If students perceive school as less safe than parents, then how do individual students compare with one another? We might expect to see differences in perceptions between female and male students. However, based on our analysis girls and boys viewed school safety virtually the same (88.3% and 88.2% favorable, respectively) in those schools where gender-specific data exists. Interestingly, where a statistically valid disparity exists between genders, male students felt school was less safe than female students.

The good news is that both students and parents perceive their schools as being very safe. Taken together, students and parents view school safety as favorable 91% of the time. Yet there’s still significant room to improve the safety of our schools.

Why does it matter?

This analysis of school safety survey questions raises several important questions. For one, it suggests that parents may not always share the same perceptions of school safety as students. But it also tells us that a smaller, yet sizable number of students don’t view school as safe — despite the favorable ratings of the parents and students around them.

Above all, if we truly want to develop safe learning environments for all our students, then it’s vital to start a conversation about how students and parents view questions like school safety.

Check out more content on leadership skills and practices here, and register for one of ACSA’s excellent hands-on leadership coaching programs, academies, or workshops. Join us on November 8-10 in San Diego for ACSA’s annual Leadership Summit, a world-class premier professional development event. The Summit is a gathering of educators at all levels of administration in celebration of the profession. For 2.5 days, this event provides opportunities for invaluable networking, offering professional development on current critical leadership and educational issues.

Previous Article
Stress: What happens to a teacher's brain when it reaches burnout?
Stress: What happens to a teacher's brain when it reaches burnout?

Meteor Education defines "burnout" and how to recover from it.

Next Article
Make student voices really matter in our schools
Make student voices really matter in our schools

Four strategies to make student voices really matter in your school.