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Safety First - Parents Demand Safety

When parents send their children to school, they expect them to be safe from bullying, sexual assaults, and shootings. Unfortunately, many parents are feeling unsure about the safety of their children when sending them to school.

A recent Pew Research Center survey taken in September of 2022 showed that 32% of parents of children in K-12 schools say they are very or extremely worried about a shooting happening at their children’s school. And another 37% were somewhat worried about a shooting happening at school. I am sure the number of concerned parents has increased with the uptick of mass shootings in January, along with the recent school shooting by a six-year-old in Virginia. As we track shootings on K-12 school property that resulted in firearm-related injuries or deaths, we are reminded of the importance of each family and student having an opportunity to take a community awareness prevention program regarding active shooter safety.

The statistics of school shootings are terrifying. In 2022, 51 school shootings resulted in injuries or deaths. But if you add the events to include any acts of gun violence on K-12 public, private, and charter school campuses, including mass shootings, gang shootings, domestic violence, shootings at sports games, after-hours school events, suicides, and other incidents, the number jumps to more than 300 shooting incidents on school grounds.

K-12 School Shooting Database 2022 - 300+ shooting incidents on school grounds. When addressing student safety, it’s critical to identify all violence and harm happening on school grounds, whether domestic violence, intimate partner violence, bullying, or gang violence, regardless of what time of day or night it is happening. Then by combining the SEEK Model (Safety, Empathy, Empowerment, and Knowledge) and teaching students self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, values, boundaries, social awareness, and bystander intervention, students can create a proactive mindset focused on learning success. Creating a safer environment where students can go to school and be better prepared to learn instead of worrying about their personal safety in the environment. As reported in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), there has been an increase in students that did not go to school because of safety concerns. In addition, there was an increase in students threatened or injured with a weapon on school property. This concerning trend needs to change. Parents and students deserve better. For the first time in history, mental illness and suicide are the greatest threat to school-age children. We see that rates of depression and anxiety among students and educators have risen steeply in recent years. Nearly 45% of students in one recent study reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness during the pandemic. And more than 25% of educators in another survey said they experienced symptoms of clinical depression.

Keeping students safe so they can focus on learning should be the goal. It’s best to understand the safety gap and how violence impacts students, educators, families, and communities. Then focus on closing the safety gap by strategizing safety for everyone. It’s in our community's best interest to help change the culture of safety at schools to stop the harm. But to do this, we must have more transparency about mental health issues and crimes happening on our school campuses around the nation. We must strategize a path forward to protect students and have proper resources to help prevent students from participating in harmful behavior or being victimized at school.

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