A month after the Sandy Hook massacre, educators across the nation were asked: “Do you feel safe?” Most of them did.
Nearly 92 percent of educators feel safe in school—but only 69 percent believe their school is safe from gun violence, according to a national “Guns and School Safety” survey, which was taken in mid-January. The School Improvement Network, an online professional development and teacher training company, surveyed over 10,600 educators in all 50 states to gain insight into educator consensus on school safety after six educators and 20 students were killed in the December shooting rampage.
“We get inundated by opinions from politicians and the media, but we realized that educators did not have a voice,” says Chet Linton, CEO and president of School Improvement Network. “The experts in the classroom who are dealing with this issue on a day-to-day basis really needed a chance to speak up.”
The discrepancy between teachers feeling safe in general and feeling protected from gun violence may be due to the unpredictability of violent attacks, Linton says. “Clearly, it’s a discomfort around the unknown, and what could happen,” he adds.
Since the Sandy Hook shooting, 68 percent of schools have increased security, with 33 percent locking more doors and 10 percent increasing police presence on campus (see infographic). But most teachers do not want to carry guns themselves: While 72 percent of educators say they would not bring a firearm to school if allowed, 88 percent say an armed guard on campus would improve safety. Nearly 37 percent say their schools have some type of armed guards on campus during classroom hours, while less than 5 percent say their schools have added full-time armed police since the shooting.
“Overall safety for students is paramount, and gun violence is only part of it,” Linton says. Administrators need to ensure their district has an emergency crisis plan, and involve all stakeholders in discussions about school safety. “Even though administrators are considered to be experts, they need to ask the experts in the classrooms how we can address this issue and positively impact learning,” Linton says. “If children and teachers don’t feel safe, neither can they focus or learn.”