WASHINGTON — Twenty years after the Columbine High School shooting made practicing for armed intruders as routine as fire drills, many parents have only tepid confidence in the ability of schools to stop a gunman, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
And while most Americans consider schools less safe than they were 20 years ago, the poll finds a majority say schools aren’t at fault for shootings. Bullying, the availability of guns, the internet and video games share more of the blame.
Lee Wisdom, a mother of two in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, believes students and staff have been trained as much as possible to prepare for an attack, but worries schools are still vulnerable to things beyond their control, like a parent holding the door for a stranger or a child sneaking his father’s gun in a backpack.
“As far as inside the school, we’re doing all we can to keep students safe,” she said. “It is the outside of the school and the people who are coming in and out that I think are the weak link,” said Wisdom, who sees school violence as a product of violent video games, TV shows and the internet’s opportunities to bully and isolate.
Half of Americans blame students being bullied a great deal for school shootings. Roughly a third say the same of the internet and television, music and video games.
By and large, schools themselves are less likely to be blamed: 59% put not much or no blame on schools for the shootings. While roughly 4 in 10 say schools have at least some responsibility, just 9% attribute a great deal of blame.
In the years since two Colorado teenagers gunned down 12 classmates and a teacher in the Denver suburb of Littleton, schools across the country have fixated on planning for threats that before had been unimaginable.
Teachers and students practice fleeing and hiding during realistic shooter scenarios inside school buildings fortified by bolted doors, bulletproof glass and security cameras.
But shootings haven’t stopped, and a little over a year after an armed ex-student allegedly killed 17 people at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the survey finds a large majority, 67%, say schools have become less safe. Only 13% say schools have become safer during the last 20 years. The rest say they are about the same.
Along the same lines, despite all of the planning, drills and expense, only about a third of parents are extremely or very confident that their children are safe in school, or that the school could respond to an active shooter. About 4 in 10 parents are moderately confident in their child’s safety and the school’s potential response, while about 2 in 10 have little or no confidence.
And parents of school-age children are especially likely to blame shootings on schools themselves, compared with other adults, 49% to 36%.
Nearly half of Americans strongly blame shootings on the availability of guns, and a majority, 67%, want to see the nation’s gun laws made stricter.
Still, Washington has had …read more