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US News: Parents worried about school safety; call for mental health screening, not armed teachers

July 17, 2018, US News: Parents Fear for Kids’ Safety in Schools Reaches Two-Decade High https://www.usnews.com/news/education-news/articles/2018-07-17/parents-fear-for-kids-safety-in-schools-reaches-two-decade-high The level of concern about school security is the highest since 1998, according to a new survey that also shows strong support for mental health screening. AMID A NATIONAL DEBATE over how to best prevent campus shootings, 1 in 3 U.S. parents fears for their child's safety while at school – the highest level of concern in two decades, according to a new national poll. At the same time, public support is strong for mental health screening for students, although implementation and funding for such efforts pose significant challenges for local schools, educators say. The findings – along with another that says Americans prefer to prioritize mental health screening over arming classroom staff – should be on the minds of educators and lawmakers considering changes to school safety policy, says Joshua Starr, chief executive of Phi Delta Kappa International, a professional organization for educators, which has polled the public on its attitudes toward public education since 1969…. – The 34 percent of parents who said they fear for their children's safety at school is a sharp jump from 12 percent just five years ago. … Support is strong for mental health screening – though respondents weren't asked to define the term – in public schools, ranging from three-quarters to 8 in 10 parents across nearly all political, racial, socioeconomic and geographic subgroups, according to the PDK poll. When asked to prioritize funding for school safety measures in the PDK poll, mental health screening was favored over armed guards by parents, at 71 percent, and even higher among Americans overall, at 76 percent. But Starr says local educators and policymakers face underlying challenges in addressing mental health in schools. Misconceptions exist about offering such services, including fears that students will either be too broadly identified as "mentally ill" or that individuals with mental illness will be wrongfully painted as potentially violent – which is wholly at odds with reality, he adds…. Effective school-based counseling services require a significant investment and can range from helping students grappling with everyday challenges that come with adolescence to full-scale threat assessments, Brian Osborne, superintendent of public schools in New Rochelle, New York, said in a press call with reporters about the PDK findings….