WASHINGTON, D.C. — The percentage of U.S. parents who say they fear for their oldest child’s safety at school has fallen to 27% after being elevated for more than a year following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Parents’ concern jumped eight percentage points from 25% in August 2012 to 33% after the December massacre, and remained there in a poll conducted nearly a year after the shootings.
These data are based on Gallup’s annual Work and Education poll, conducted Aug. 7-10.
The percentage of American parents who feared for their oldest child’s physical safety in school peaked at 55% in 1999 after the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado. In the first decade of the 2000s, parents’ fears waned overall, though they spiked accordingly with reports of school shootings. In 2008, parents’ fear fell to an all-time low of 15%. This low level of worry was short-lived, however, because by 2009, it had climbed back to 26%, and remained at this level until late 2012.
Fears for children’s safety have spiked after tragic events in schools, but the short-term increases in parents’ concerns also appear to get smaller each time. After reaching 55% after the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, there was a spike to 45% after the 2001 Santana High School shootings in California. By 2006, safety fears increased to 35% after a shooting at an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania. And after an Alabama killing spree in homes and businesses that left 10 dead in 2009, 26% of parents feared for their children’s safety.
Relatively Few Parents Say Their Children Have Expressed Fear to Them
While 26% of parents worry about the safety of their sons and daughters at school, a much smaller 8% report that their children have expressed worry to them about feeling unsafe at school. This gap between parents’ and children’s views has been evident each time Gallup has asked the questions. This figure, however, accounts only for children who have told their parents about their fears, and may not represent all children’s feelings.
The percentage of parents who say their children have expressed fear to them about school safety has been quite stable over time, ranging narrowly between 8% and 12% since 2003.
At times, children have been more likely to express fear to their parents about feeling unsafe at school. In August 1999, roughly four months after Columbine, 18% of parents said they
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