A new study from ACT, "Creating Safe Schools: Examining High School Perceptions of Their Physical Safety at School," surveyed approximately 16,000 students between grades 10 and 12 who took the exam in October 2018, finding that 91% of high school students report feeling "at least somewhat" safe at school despite the growing number of school shooting incidents.
Alongside creating a safe environment, 38% of students believe adding mental health services would improve their sense of safety, and worrying about unsafe schools had a negative impact on the ability to learn for 23% of the respondents.
More students opposed the idea of arming teachers than supported it, with 46% against adults possessing guns at school and 34% supporting it. The ACT report recommends utilizing federal and state funds to increase available student mental health services, conducting more research before implementing safety measures, and allowing students to give their input on the topic.
The idea of providing mental health support in schools is gaining traction at the secondary level, and some of the change is coming from students themselves. Recently, three Virginia high school students sought help from state lawmakers after watching their peers struggle with depression and anxiety. Following the students' initiative, Virginia became one of the first states to require mental health education in K-12 schools.
The new curriculum will be folded into existing instruction and will include age-appropriate lessons that cut stigma around mental health, teach youth how to care for their mental health, and create pathways for students to seek care in the future.
On the other end of the school safety debate is the battle over firearm laws. In light of continued mass shootings, lawmakers have renewed talks on gun legislation but have not agreed on a solid plan to reduce gun violence in schools. Democrats and Republicans are divided over the issue, while laws at the state level vary.
In response to mass violence, some states are making it easier for trained adults, including school staff, to carry weapons on school grounds.