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Majority Of US Teens Apprehensive About Returning To School In Fall 2021

Lack Confidence That Schools Are Prepared

As schools reopen across the nation, a new poll shows that a majority of teens are apprehensive about returning to the classroom in the fall 2021 semester. The poll, commissioned by Navigate 360, a consultancy which offers emergency preventions and preparedness to schools, and conducted by John Zogby Strategies, reveals that 54% of 16–17-year-olds nationwide are “not prepared to deal with the anxiety of returning” to the classroom, while 31% say they disagree with that statement.

The poll of 304 16–17-year-olds nationwide was conducted online on March 25, 2021 and has a margin-of-sampling error of +/-5.7 percentage points. Error margins are higher for subgroups.

This level of anxiety is contrary to the 58% of adults nationwide also polled by Navigate 360/John Zogby Strategies who say they are optimistic that “students in (their community) will be able to go back to school next fall”. The adult poll was conducted on the same day among 1005 respondents and has a margin-of-sampling error of +/-3.2 percentage points.

The poll reveals the multiple sources of student apprehension. Among them:

—Three in five teens (59%) say they personally know someone who has considered self-harm or suicide. That is twenty-five points higher than the adults surveyed; only 34% believe their school is prepared to handle this issue;

—Students are less likely than adults to feel confident they have been provided adequate training in case of an emergency incident;

—They are twenty-one points less likely to be confident that their schoolmates know what to do in an emergency situation (37% vs. 58% of adults);

—They feel eleven points less confident that school leadership knows what do in case of an emergency to ensure minimal casualties and loss of life (35% vs 46% of adults);

—The teens are thirteen points less confident than adults that their schoolmates know who to call and how to report an incident (42% vs 55% of adults);

—They are twelve points less confident that school officials can create an atmosphere of physical and emotional safety (38% vs 50% of adults).

A majority of the teens responding to the poll (52%) agree that they would “want part of their curriculum to be spent learning about working on my social-emotional well-being”. Less than one three (31%) disagree. Further, the same majority of 52% agree (30% strongly agree) that they “believe the training mentioned above is an essential life skill.

Of 304 teens who responded to the question of “what keeps you up at night”, only 15 reported “nothing” or “none”. Most cited stress emotions, relationships, video/phone games or social media, and parents.

Compounding a sense of insecurity among teens is the issue of bullying. About half (49%) say that they are “aware of (someone in their school) who has been bullied because of race, sexual orientation or income level”. Only 31% are not aware and 21% are not sure.

The Navigate 360/Zogby Strategies survey lines up with a new report released in March 2020 by the United States Secret Service, that drilled down deeply into common denominators shared by school shooting plots that were averted. In most cases, the shooters had felt bullied, had difficulties with interpersonal relationships, had given signals to fellow students, and had previous problems with school officials. According to that report, “almost always (there were) intervention points available before a student’s behavior escalates to violence”. Among its conclusions, “students are best positioned to identify and report concerning behaviors displayed by their classmates”. But, only 23% of the schools studied had a “designated reporting system to notify officials about concerning student behavior”. In 43% of the cases studied, fellow students had heard about something but did not report it.

A number of questions in the survey reveal a deep chasm between how adults and teens view the impact of the current crises on education and students. While 62% of parents with children under 17 living at home report that they frequently (31%) or regularly (31%) talk to their children about mental health issues, 36% say they hardly or never do. Eighty-one percent of the parents say they are comfortable talking about mental health concerns with their children and 62% feel their local schools have sufficient resources to deal with mental health concerns. Nonetheless, 78% of parents still say they are very worried (39%) or somewhat worried (48%) about the mental health impact of Covid-19 isolation and stress on K-12 children.

With schools planning to come back to live session, there is sure to be an increase in school violence. Both the data from the Secret Service study and the Navigate/Zogby Strategies studies suggest that officials have a lot of work to do to relearn socialization skills and identify concerning behavior and potential threats of harm in near real time. The main takeaway from both studies is that simply catching on learning loss cannot be the singular focused practice this summer and fall.

Courtesy of


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