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Most Americans Find Schools Less Safe Than in 1999

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Two decades after the Columbine High School shooting made practicing for armed intruders routine, many parents have only tepid confidence in the ability of schools to stop a gunman, finds a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. 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. Half of Americans blame students being bullied a great deal for school shootings. About a third say the same about the internet and television, music and video games.

Nearly sixty percent put not much or no blame on schools for the shootings. In the years since two Colorado teenagers gunned down 12 classmates and a teacher in the Denver suburb of Littleton, schools 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. More than 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 percent say schools have become less safe. Only 13 percent say schools have become safer during the last 20 years. The rest say they are about the same. 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. Nearly half of Americans strongly blame shootings on the availability of guns, and a majority, 67 percent, want to see the nation’s gun laws made stricter.

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