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How Do Students and Parents Perceive School Safety?

Jack McDermott
Jack McDermott
How Do Students and Parents Perceive School Safety?



In recent years, bullying and violence have been at the forefront of media coverage on school safety. Yet for the vast majority of our nation’s schools, the learning environment is likely very safe. Creating safe schools is becoming especially important, as a growing body of research underscores that students learn better when they feel safe.

How safe are our schools?

We decided to put this question to the test. At Panorama, our platform supports thousands of schools through data analytics and feedback surveys. Many of these surveys focus on key topics of school climate like safety. With tens of thousands of data points, we can gain a broader and more quantitative view on the perceptions of our school’s stakeholders.

For our analysis, we chose to look at perceptions of school safety between parents and students. In doing so, one might expect to find that parents would respond to survey questions about school safety less favorably than students since parents engage with more media than their children.

After analyzing 59,000+ surveys, here’s what we found:

Through statistical analysis of survey data in 117 schools nationwide, students perceived school safety 9% less favorably than parents. This figure indicates a gap between how students feel about safety in their schools, and how parents feel about safety in these same schools. This trend continues across 62% of the schools in our study, which represent a mixed socio-economic, geographic, and racial composition from both urban and suburban communities.

What percentage of parents and students respond favorably to survey items on school safety?


If students perceive school as less safe than parents, then how do individual students compare with one another? We might expect to see differences in perceptions between female and male students. However, based on our analysis girls and boys viewed school safety virtually the same (88.3% and 88.2% favorable, respectively) in those schools where gender-specific data exists. Interestingly, where a statistically valid disparity exists between genders, male students felt school was less safe than female students.

The good news is that both students and parents perceive their schools as being very safe. Taken together, students and parents view school safety as favorable 91% of the time. Yet there’s still significant room to improve the safety of our schools.

Why does it matter?

This analysis of school safety survey questions raises several important questions. For one, it suggests that parents may not always share the same perceptions of school safety as students. But it also tells us that a smaller, yet sizable number of students don’t view school as safe — despite the favorable ratings of the parents and students around them.

Above all, if we truly want to develop safe learning environments for all our students, then it’s vital to start a conversation about how students and parents view questions like school safety.

Jack McDermott (Marketing Manager) and Won Suh (Data Scientist) contributed to the research and analysis in this post. Follow Panorama Education on Twitter for additional updates.
*A “favorable” response is defined as either “Agree” or “Strongly Agree” to a question like “I feel safe at this school.” Answer choices that were “Disagree,” “Strongly Disagree” or “Neutral” were not included as favorable responses.

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