Most parents express scant enthusiasm for arming schoolteachers, preferring metal detectors and mental-health screening as tools to keep students safe, according to a survey released Tuesday.
Asked to choose between two potential ways of addressing school safety, 76 percent of all adults and 71 percent of parents of school-age children preferred mental-health services for students over armed guards in schools.
The survey comes as a school safety commission established by the White House considers ideas including equipping teachers with firearms. The commission, led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, was formed following the February school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that left 14 students and three staff members dead.
The poll finds anxiety among parents after a series of mass shootings at U.S. schools, and broad consensus regarding less-controversial ideas for addressing school safety.
Just over 1 in 4 parents said they were extremely or very confident that sufficient security exists at their child’s school to prevent a shooting attack, and more than one-third said they fear for their child’s physical safety at school.
The level of fear varied. Those with lower incomes, people living in cities, people of color, women, Democrats and parents without college degrees were more likely to express fear for their children than others in the survey.
The poll was conducted by PDK International, an association of teachers, administrators and other education professionals, as part of a broad annual survey on school-related issues. The survey did not ask about restrictions on the sale or possession of guns, the most controversial piece of the school safety debate. The chief executive of PDK, Joshua Starr, said the group wanted to keep the questions focused on matters directly related to schools.
Other surveys have found support for gun restrictions. A Washington Post-ABC News Poll conducted in April, for instance, found 62 percent support for a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons and 72 percent support for raising the legal age to buy rifles and shotguns to 21.
Most of the PDK survey will be issued in late August, but PDK decided to release the school safety questions now because of the active debate around these issues.
Asked about a series of ideas for addressing school safety, 3 in 4 parents favored armed police in schools, mental-health screenings and metal detectors at school entrances.
But far fewer parents — 37 percent — favored allowing teachers and other staff members to carry guns, and 2 in 3 parents said they would prefer their child be in a classroom with a teacher who does not carry a gun. Republicans were far more comfortable with armed teachers — 57 percent compared with just 17 percent of Democrats.
Support for arming teachers rose to about half of all parents when asked about a program that includes special training in weapons and approval of local authorities. With a training program in place, support among Republicans for armed teachers rose to 76 percent.
The survey was conducted in May among 1,042 adults, including 515 parents of school-age children. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points for the full sample and 5.5 points for the sample of parents.