Parents give schools low grades for prevention of bullying and school violence

September 8, 2009 Volume 7 Issue 4
  • Only 1 in 3 parents give secondary schools an “A” for providing a safe place for students overall; in contrast, 3 in 5 parents give primary schools an “A”.
  • Only 1 in 4 parents give secondary schools an “A” for prevention of bullying and school violence; just 2 in 5 parents give primary schools an “A”.
  • Parents of children in private schools give substantially higher marks for school safety issues than parents of children in public or charter schools.

From bullying to school shootings, our nation’s schools have the responsibility to keep children safe across a wide range of situations. The CS Mott Children’s  Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health asked parents to grade their children’s schools on key aspects of school safety.

Bullying Prevention and School Violence

Parents give schools low marks for prevention of bullying and school violence. Only about one-quarter of parents give secondary schools an “A” for prevention of  bullying and school violence, while 38% of parents give primary schools an “A”.

One in five parents give their children's secondary school a borderline or failing grade (a “D” or “F”) for prevention of bullying and school violence, while one in ten  of parents give their children’s primary school a borderline or failing grade (Table 1). Results did not differ by whether parents lived in states with bullying  prevention laws or not.

Keeping Parents Informed and Students Safe

Parents give primary schools the highest proportion of “A’s” for keeping parents informed in school-wide emergencies (64%). In contrast, only 46% of parents give  secondary schools an “A” for keeping parents informed (Table 2).

On keeping students safe in a school-wide emergency, 62% of parents give primary schools an “A”, while only 36% of parents give secondary schools an “A” for  keeping students safe (Table 3).

Building and Overall Safety

High marks are less common for building security. Only  one-third of parents give their children's secondary school an "A" grade on building security, while  about one-half of parents give primary schools an “A” (Table 4).

Overall, 33% of parents give their children's secondary schools an “A” grade for providing a safe place for students, while 59% of parents give primary schools an  “A” (Table 5).

Parents’ ratings of their children’s schools regarding safety did not differ by household income, race/ethnicity or region.

Safety Grades for Public vs. Private Schools

Parents of children in private schools (about 10% of children overall) give those schools substantially higher marks for safety issues than parents of children in  public or charter schools.

Parents give private secondary schools more than twice as high a proportion of “A’s” as public secondary schools for issues of school safety. Of note, 83% of  private school parents give their child’s secondary school an “A” for the school being a safe place overall, while only 28% of parents of public school children  give “A’s” (Table 6 & 7, pg 3).

Implications

The good news from this Poll is that, in general, parents appear pleased with schools’ preparedness efforts regarding keeping children safe and keeping parents  informed in case of school-wide emergencies. This may be a result of nationwide responses to well-publicized school violence tragedies in recent years that  have led to extensive anticipatory planning by schools and localities.

In contrast, parents believe their children’s schools could do much better when it comes to the prevention of bullying and other violence between students. In particular, parents of secondary school students feel that their schools are not meeting their expectations; only one-quarter give secondary schools an “A” grade  when it comes to prevention of bullying and school violence.

Previous findings of the CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health (August 2009) indicate that the American public is concerned about the  problem of bullying for children. Bullying can have serious health effects, including physical symptoms related to injuries and emotional symptoms such as low  self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and actions.

Many states have passed bullying prevention laws to focus schools’ attention on this problem. However, findings from this Poll indicate that such laws have yet  to influence parents’ impressions of school performance in this arena. Bullying prevention programs may need more time or better approaches in order to be more effective.

Data Source

This report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by Knowledge Networks, Inc, for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital via a method used in many published studies. The survey was administered in May 2009 to a randomly selected, stratified group of parents aged 18 and older with children in primary or secondary school (n=1,087) from the Knowledge Networks standing panel that closely resembles the U.S. population. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau. The survey completion rate was 59% among panel members contacted to participate. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 to 6 percentage points for the main analysis. For results based on subgroups, the margin of error is higher.

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health
Director: Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP
Associate Director: Sarah J. Clark, MPH
Manager & Editor: Dianne C. Singer, MPH
Data Analyst: Amy T. Butchart, MPH

This Report includes research findings from the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, which do not represent the opinions of the  investigators or the opinions of the University of Michigan. The University of Michigan reserves all rights over this material.

Please give your [INSERT AGE OF CHILD]-year old child’s school a “grade” on the following health topics.

  A B C D F
Building security          
Prevention of bullying and other forms of school violence          
Keeping students safe in the event of a school-wide emergency          
Keeping parents informed in the event of a school-wide emergency          

2. Please give your [INSERT AGE OF CHILD]-year old child’s school a “grade” about whether it provides a safe place for students overall?

  • A
  • B
  • C
  • D
  • F

Participants were also asked demographic questions on child age, gender, health status, and insurance status. Parents were also asked to identify annual household income, education, race/ ethnicity and health insurance status.

All information is the sole property of the University of Michigan CS Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.  It can only be used if there is an acknowledgment that "The information came from, is copyright by and is owned by and belongs to the Regents of the University of Michigan and their C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health. It cannot be republished or used in any format without prior written permission from the University."

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health
Director: Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP
Associate Director: Sarah J. Clark, MPH
Manager & Editor: Dianne C. Singer, MPH
Data Analyst: Amy T. Butchart, MPH

Click on an image to download the full-size version

Report card for prevention of bullying and school violence
Report card for keeping parents informed in school-wide emergencies
Report card for keeping students safe in school-wide emergencies
Report card for school building security by school level
Report card for providing a safe place overall, by school level
Percentage of parents giving "A's" for issues of school safety