Child Welfare

The New Normal: School Shootings Are a Top Worry for Children and Parents

For Immediate Release: Thursday, September 20, 2018

Media Contact:

Stephanie Hogenson, Outreach Director
612-978-7365 or

The New Normal: School Shootings Are a Top Worry for Children and Parents

In YouGov survey, children in the Midwest report greater fear over school shootings than fitting in, facing peer pressure

St. Paul, Minn. – As a new school year gets underway, fear of a school shooting is front and center in the minds of children and their parents in the Midwest and across the country, according to new survey data released by the Children’s Defense Fund. According to the Children’s Defense Fund’s Parent and Child Trends survey conducted earlier this year by YouGov, children say they are more worried about a shooting happening in their schools than they are about fitting in with other children or experiencing peer pressure. Thirty-five percent of children between the ages of 6 and 17 and 35 percent of parents in the Midwest, which includes those surveyed in Minnesota, report worries about school shootings. Among children, only worries about being bullied are more common.

The survey gathered comments from respondents alongside the data. An 8-year-old girl from Wisconsin said, “We are afraid because there are too many threats at schools. I want my school to be safe and to have art because kids like art.” A 13-year-old girl from Indiana said, “There should be stricter gun control. Schools need to have better security.”

Fear of a school shooting is consistent across racial, ethnic and income groups, suggesting a recent wave of school shootings has cemented mass violence as an everyday concern among a broad cross-section of America’s children. Overall, only two-thirds of children in the Midwest say they feel safe at school.

“It is a tragedy of our society and a disgrace to our nation that our children go to school each day carrying the fear that they will be gunned down in the hallways or on the schoolyard,” said Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund. “We must not allow ourselves and our children to become accustomed to living in a country where the senseless murders of children in schools and our communities are a commonplace event. We must heed our children’s calls to keep them safe and allow them to grow up, learn and play free from violence and fear. We cannot afford to wait for another tragedy to occur before we decide once and for all to protect children not guns.”

The data released today show that while children and parents want safer schools, they report doubts about many of the policies being proposed to prevent future school shootings. Highlights include:

  • Children and parents are wary of proposals to arm teachers. Only 35 percent of children and parents in the Midwest agree with the statement “teachers having guns in school would help children be safer.”
  • Black children were especially skeptical of the proposal to arm teachers, with only 26 percent of Black children in the Midwest in agreement.
  • Seventy-two percent of children and 77 percent of parents in the Midwest believe police or School Resource Officers (SROs) would keep children safer in schools. But nationally, nearly half of all children (48 percent) and a third of parents (35 percent) surveyed are either not sure about the merits of having armed officers in schools or outright oppose it.
  • Eighty-five percent of children and more than 90 percent of parents in the Midwest believe students and staff should be trained on what to do if there is a shooter in their school. But only 72 percent children say they are taught what to do in these situations. Nationally, the likelihood of a child saying they learn what to do if there is a shooter in their school varies with household income. Only 59 percent of children in households with incomes below $25,000 say they learn how to respond to a school shooter, compared with 77 percent of children in households with incomes of $100,000 or more.
  • In the Midwest and across the country, children believe there are too many guns in the United States. Nationally, nearly four times as many children agree as disagree that guns are too easy to get in America (53 percent to 14 percent) and three times more children agree than disagree that there are too many guns in America (54 percent to 18 percent).

“Minnesota parents and children should never have to fear being shot in their neighborhoods, their schools, or anywhere in their communities. Fear impedes learning and child safety should be a top concern for Minnesota lawmakers, who need to prioritize common sense proposals that reflect the community’s desire for action and help keep guns out of the wrong hands and out of our classrooms,” said Bharti Wahi, Executive Director of Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota.

The Children’s Defense Fund believes all children in America should be guaranteed the right to live, learn and grow up safely—free from violence and fear. CDF envisions a nation in which children and teens feel safe in their communities and classrooms and leaders at all levels protect children not guns. The Children’s Defense Fund supports efforts to:

  • Make sure school safety plans developed across the country address the need for safe, nurturing schools that offer physical protection from guns as well as close connections and supportive relationships between staff and students.
  • Eliminate zero tolerance discipline policies to focus on understanding children’s experiences rather than punishing their behaviors while carefully monitoring and responding to the impact of these reforms to ensure they benefit all students across racial, ethnic and income lines.
  • Minimize the threat of gang violence and mass shootings in children’s neighborhoods and schools by restricting gun access for children and teens under 21 and other high risk groups, implementing universal background checks, and banning assault weapons, high capacity magazines and bump stocks through common sense guns laws in state legislatures and Congress.

To see the full brief on the YouGov data on gun violence and school shootings, which includes information about the survey methodology, click here.

For relevant data tables from the survey, click here.

For more information about the Children’s Defense Fund’s work to protect children not guns, click here.


The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit child advocacy organization that has worked relentlessly for more than 40 years to ensure a level playing field for all children.

The Children’s Defense Fund Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.

CDF provides a strong, effective and independent voice for all the children of America who cannot vote, lobby or speak for themselves. We pay particular attention to the needs of poor children, children of color and those with disabilities. CDF educates the nation about the needs of children and encourages preventive investments before they get sick, drop out of school, get into trouble or suffer family breakdown.