Physical safety of kids at school is front-of-mind for the majority of Boston Public School parents polled in a recent survey.
Two out of three Boston Public Schools parents are concerned about their child’s physical safety while in school, according to new survey results released Tuesday by the MassINC Polling Group. Three out of four respondents said they were in favor of placing police officers and metal detectors in their children’s school.
The findings are based on a survey taken of roughly 800 BPS parents between March 22 and April 10. MassINC, a non-partisan public opinion research firm, conducted similar polls five previous times starting in mid-2021.
Black and Asian parents expressed more concern for their kids’ physical safety in schools than white and Latino parents.
Support for police presence in the schools and metal detectors also varied by race: white parents expressed the least support for police and metal detectors in BPS schools while Hispanic parents showed strongest support.
Boston Public Schools have not had police officers stationed inside schools since summer 2021. Instead, they rely on safety specialists who serve as liaisons to BPD and other law enforcement. In January, an outside consultant recommended that BPS re-establish a police presence in the district.
Violent altercations at Boston Latin Academy and TechBoston Academy earlier this year and at Jeremiah E. Burke High School last fall drew more public attention to the issue of school climate and safety.
Suleika Soto has a child who attends TechBoston Academy. She said the school should consider preventative safety measures rather than rely on police and metal detectors.
“If a student feels like they have to bring a gun or a knife or anything like that into school, it’s already too late,” Soto said. “If there (were) more adults in schools and … just more support and getting to know the students, there’s so many other things that can be invested before that.”
Some members of the Boston City Council have voiced support to re-establish a formal police officer presence within Boston Public Schools. In January, Councilors Erin Murphy, Ed Flynn, Michael Flaherty and Frank Baker signed a letter to BPS superintendent Mary Skipper stating there “should be no question among city and state officials” to install metal detectors and return police to school buildings.
Councilor-At-Large Julia Mejia said that is not the focus schools need at this time. She favors more steps to address the emotional security of students in school.
For instance, she said the Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester will organize a “mental health and wellness day” on Friday to offer therapy sessions and yoga.
“That’s the hard work,” Mejia said. ‘What we’re doing by just adding a layer of additional police officers and metal detectors is just the easy way out.”
Soto said parents need to be engaged if BPS explores adding police officers to schools.
Three out of four parents surveyed in the MassINC poll said they want to be “very engaged” with BPS, but only 46% of parents said BPS enabled them to do so.
Parents continue to be concerned about transportation — only 38% of parents said their kid’s bus was on time every day over a weeklong period.
Still, the poll indicated that Boston parents are as equally pleased with their children’s individual schools as other parents in Massachusetts.
Nearly three-quarters of parents said they would grade their kid’s school an “A” or “B.”
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