One of the highest priorities we can have in American society is the safety and protection of children – and the men and women who teach them. From February 27 to March 9, 2018 Professional Educators of Tennessee surveyed 1403 educators across Tennessee. Ninety-seven percent listed their role as being a current educator, while 3% reported being retired educators.
When asked if they felt safe at school, 47% stated they felt safe, while 41% stated they felt somewhat safe, 10% felt somewhat unsafe and 2% felt unsafe. When asked if an armed School Resource Office improved safety, 98% felt that they either improved or somewhat improved the safety of a school climate. While 62% responded that they have an active shooter protocol, only 55% reported that their School Resource Officer carried a side-arm. Conversely, while 1% of respondents stated their school already had metal detectors, 53% felt they were not needed at this time.
When asked about safety regulations already in place at school, 87% percent stated that all visitors are required to have a visitor’s pass but only 34% of schools required students and staff to wear a photo ID at all times. Seventy-five percent of all educators reported an increase on security procedures and awareness and 89% have practiced “lockdown” drills.
We also asked if educators thought that there were enough school counselors available to actually counsel students needing mental health services. Sixty-three percent of the respondents said there are NOT enough guidance counselors at their school. Thirty-seven percent believed there are enough guidance counselors.
Regarding the hotly debated issue of allowing teachers to be armed in the classroom, an interesting finding of our survey was that 53% percent of educators stated that they personally would be unlikely to carry a firearm in the classroom, but 63% of those surveyed felt that properly trained personnel should be allowed to carry a weapon to school. Although 59% of educators reported owning a firearm, only 37% stated they would be likely or somewhat likely to carry a firearm to school.
There is a wealth of information in the nearly 850 comments that educators thoughtfully provided. We appreciate the educators who took the time to provide diverse thoughts and responses. Open-ended responses showed strong support for increased focus on student mental health, and lower school-counselor ratios were mentioned frequently. Comments also frequently mentioned support for increased SRO presence and improved school safety infrastructure (eg. bulletproof glass, door locks, intercoms, panic buttons, use of retired military and law enforcement, and cameras). There was both strong opposition to and support for allowing educators to carry firearms in schools. The entire comments section is available for download here. Comments are unedited except for the removal of identifying district or school information.
JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee. To schedule an interview please contact Audrey Shores, Director of Communications, at 1-800-471-4867 ext.102.