School Climate & Safety

Educators’ Views on School Safety, in Charts

By Caitlynn Peetz & Vanessa Solis — July 11, 2023 1 min read
Photograph of closed lockers in a school hallway, in the distance a there is a blurry figure.
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Even as schools continue to report an increase in students’ behavioral problems and mental health needs, the majority of educators say they generally feel safe at school.

But many say they feel less safe than they did in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted every part of life, as well as every detail of schooling.

In a survey of educators, principals, and district leaders conducted by the EdWeek Research Center last month, 41 percent of respondents said their sense of safety at school has decreased compared to 2019.

Still, overall, 71 percent said they still feel safe at work.

The results come as many districts have reported an increased number of threats and more violence in schools. And an analysis by Education Week has found that school shootings have risen. In 2022, there were 51 school shootings that resulted in injuries or deaths. That was the highest annual total since Education Week began tracking school shootings in 2018.

Still, some studies have found teachers’ biggest safety concern is about students bullying each other, rather than gun violence.

In general, educators in urban districts were the most likely to say their sense of safety has decreased since 2019. Those educators were also the most likely to say they feel unsafe at school compared to those in rural or suburban districts.

Teachers appear to be more worried than principals and district leaders. In the survey, 66 percent of teachers said they feel safe at work, significantly lower than for principals (83 percent) and district leaders (88 percent).

When asked what would make them feel safer, school staff were most likely to point to preventative measures, like hiring additional mental health professionals. They also pointed to policy shifts far outside the purview of schools—such as closing loopholes in background check laws to purchase firearms, and banning assault weapons.

Consistent with many other studies, respondents to the EdWeek Research Center survey were least likely to support measures that would increase police presence or allow more firearms on campus, like allowing teachers to carry guns.

In an EdWeek Research Center survey a year ago, soon after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, educators were also more likely to support heightened restrictions on gun sales and more funding for student mental health care.


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