Can We Keep Our Schools Safe? UH, TSU Survey Looks at Texas Opinions

Arming Classroom Teachers Sparks Divides, Several Other Proposals Inspire Majority Support

Photo of teacher standing, arms crossed, at head of class
A suggestion to allow teachers to carry guns in classrooms drew the most controversy in a school-safety survey newly released by the University of Houston and Texas Southern University. Several other proposals met majority support. The survey is part of UH and TSU’s five-year Texas Trends Project, which is tracking shifts in public opinion as Texas’ population changes. Photo credit: Max Fischer for Pexels

Everyone agrees schools should be places of safety, but conversations about how to reach and maintain that vision rarely end in consensus.

Texas Trends 2022 – School Safety, a new survey from the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston and Barbara Jordan–Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University, reveals broad support for most of the nine proposed actions it presents. It finds differences, too, including some strong divisions along politics and race.

“At least three-fourths of the survey’s participants supported two of the survey’s nine proposals: Increasing mental health support for students drew support from 76% of respondents, and increasing school drills for active-threat situations was supported by 75%,” said Hobby School senior research fellow and Rice University professor Mark P. Jones.

Almost as many said “yes” to having armed police officers (71%) and/or armed security guards (68%) inside schools. Metal detectors at school entrances were favored by 69%.

A little over three-fifths (61%) agreed that antibullying campaigns would be effective.

“Opinion gaps were widest around the idea of firearms-trained teachers carrying guns inside classrooms. At 48%, almost half believed the presence of armed teachers would increase school safety, while more than a third, 35%, believed the opposite – that guns in the classroom would end up making schools less safe,” said Michael O. Adams, founding director of the Executive Master of Public Administration Program and professor of political science and public administration at Texas Southern University.

By the Numbers

Arming teachers. “In our survey’s biggest divide along ethnicity, 50% of all the survey’s Black respondents – compared to 35% of its Latino and 30% of its white respondents – were among the 35% of the survey’s respondents opposing the arming of classroom teachers,” Adams said. The divide continued along political lines, too, with 56% of the survey’s Democrats and 34% of its Independents opposing the idea, compared with just 15% of its Republicans.

Within the opposite viewpoint, the 48% supporting firearms-trained teachers carrying guns in the classroom included 74% of the survey’s Republicans, 43% of its Independents and 27% of its Democrats. “Looking according to ethnicity, 57% of the survey’s white, 43% of its Latino, and 33% of its Black survey participants believed arming teachers to be a good idea,” Adams said.

Campaigns Against Bullying. “Gaps were also found surrounding new anti-bulling campaigns in schools. While 70% of the survey’s Democrats believed such programs would help, support dropped to 58% among the survey’s Independents and 52% among its Republicans,” said Savannah Sipole, Hobby School research associate. By ethnicity: 75% of the survey’s Black, 62% of its Latino, and 56% of its white respondents supported anti-bullying campaigns.

Armed Police in Schools: The 71% of total respondents saying armed police officers inside schools would increase safety included 89% of the survey’s Republicans, 69% of its Independents, and 55% of its Democrats. By ethnicity: 72% of the survey’s white, 70% of its Latino, and 69% of its Black participants were in agreement.

Armed Security Guards in Schools: Similar breakdowns were reported within the 68% of survey participants who favored armed security guards being inside schools. Breakdown by political affiliation: 86% of the survey’s Republicans, 66% of its Independents, 54% of its Democrats. By ethnicity: 71% of the survey’s white, 67% of its Latino, 66% of its Black respondents.

Restricting School Entrances: Among the 62% of survey respondents who agreed schools with fewer entries are safer were 74% of the survey’s Republicans; its Independents and Democrats were each at 55% agreement. Division by ethnicity showed 66% of the survey’s white respondents, 60% of its Latinos, and 59% of its whites in agreement.

Other Issues. Smaller gaps among political affiliations or ethnicity were found surrounding the remaining issues, including metal detectors, mental-health resources and active-threat drills. Differences between men and women’s responses were small, with even the largest gender gaps measuring in single digits. 

For full analysis of each of the nine proposed issues, and how responses break down by demographics and political affiliation, see the Texas Trends 2022 – School Safety report.

About the Survey

“Texas Trends 2022 – School Safety” is the fourth contribution for this year within the five-year Texas Trends project. Starting in 2021, Texas Trends surveys have been measuring shifts in opinions as Texas’ population grows and changes. The next releases for this year will look at the economy, criminal justice and health care. This year’s previous Texas Trends reports examined the Nov. 8 general election’s state races, the Nov. 8 ballot for Harris County judge, and the issue of gun safety.

Data for the “Texas Trends Survey 2022 – School Safety” survey was fielded Aug. 11–29 by YouGov from 2,140 respondents representing Texas’ evolving population of white, Black, Latino and Asian residents. The survey was conducted in English and Spanish, and has a confidence interval of +/-2.1.