The second poll in a series of nationwide surveys conducted by Navigate360, a full-spectrum safety preparedness and response company, and John Zogby Strategies, a national polling firm, reveals that many American teens are not confident in their school leadership’s ability to keep them safe as they return to the classroom.  

When asked what kept them up at night, teens overwhelmingly reported anxiety and depression as key factors. However, even more concerning was that 56% of students reported that they personally knew someone who considered self-harm or suicide, but less than one third (32%) believed their school was prepared to handle this issue, demonstrating that school leaders need to address social and emotional safety in addition to physical safety. 

Only 36% of teens ages 16-17 reported they know who to call and where to report a threat, less than half (42%) believe their school is doing its best to create an atmosphere of physical and emotional safety. These stats show diminishing confidence and feelings of security compared to a similar August 2020 survey

This poll, part of The Safety and Security Poll is the second analysis from Navigate360 and John Zogby Strategies in their partnership to assess the state of mental and physical safety and wellbeing in the United States. One poll focused on adults, and the companion poll captured the attitudes and beliefs of teenagers aged 16-17. The results show that despite the end of 2020, a change in administration, and hope for vaccines to prevent the spread and rise of the Covid-19 pandemic, fear still is present in the lives of many Americans young and old.

Key statistics of the study include: 

  • 58% of teens and 76% of adults surveyed said they only felt safe at home. Compared to the last survey, this is a 12-point decrease for teens but a 6-point increase for adults. 
  • Only 37% of teens believe that their school has a comprehensive emergency plan. 
  • 55% of teens surveyed said they thought more about their physical and emotional safety and wellness compared to six months ago. When looking at teens in large cities, this jumps to 75%.  
  • Only 55% of teens believed that school leaders thought safety was a priority and only 42% thought schools were spending enough time and money to keep students safe. One-in-three (35%) said they felt the “least safe” in school compared to their home, after-school job, favorite restaurant, or place of worship.

“Students are telling us they don’t feel safe in school and we as a nation need to put in the work reverse this trend. Through staff trainings and established processes and protocols, schools can ensure students are supported and comfortable asking for help. Leaders in both the public and private sectors need to come together and take action to address our nation’s school safety crisis,” said JP Guilbault, CEO of Navigate360. “Americans should have confidence that students are learning in environments that are physically, socially, and emotionally safe and allow young adults to thrive so they can reach their full potential.” 

Adults were somewhat more upbeat on how leaders and institutions are handling matters of workplace, school, and public safety. Of the nine areas tested, confidence among adults actually rose in six categories between four and eight percentage points. Nonetheless, 38% feel less safe about their own or their child’s school, 34% about their place of worship, and 50% about their favorite restaurant. Three in five (59%) said they now think more about their physical and emotional safety than they did six months ago.

“While adults are slowly becoming more confident, today’s Gen Z teens are known for not trusting familiar institutions and leaders,” said John Zogby, who conducted the poll. “The current crisis only seems to have exacerbated that rejection, especially towards school leadership and their ability to keep students safe. Unaddressed, this could have broader outcomes on Gen-Z’s future.” 

The Navigate360/Zogby Strategies Safety and Security Poll is now just 98.4 among teens – a drop in outlook from late August. The new index aggregates responses to multiple questions regarding physical and emotional safety and creates a baseline of 100.0 from the August survey. This first reported index represents an overall drop in confidence amidst the multiple crises facing Americans.

The poll consisted of sampling 1000 adults across the country and was conducted online on December 14, 2020. The margin of sampling error is within +/-3.2 percentage points. The poll of (304) 16- and 17-year-olds nationwide was conducted online on December 14, 2020, with parental permission and has a sampling error of +/-5.7 percentage points.