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School safety is a top concern for CPS students, survey finds

Ambriehl Crutchfield

During Monday night's school board meeting, Superintendent Iranetta Wright and members of the Board of Education reviewed the results of the Cincinnati Public School's climate survey.

The survey asked students, staff and families about their experiences with academics and their thoughts on the culture of the district.

In total, close to 16,000 students ranging from 3rd graders to seniors in high school completed the survey.

The results from students and staff revealed some concerns about safety and security in the schools.

To the surprise of some on the board, 46% of 3rd through 6th graders viewed safety in the school district favorably, meaning that more than half of those elementary school students who participated either feel unsure or do not feel safe in school buildings.

Similarly, results from middle- and high school-aged students indicated that 48% viewed safety at CPS favorably. Among the adults, results were higher, with 68% of staff saying they viewed safety at CPS favorably, but the answers from younger students raised some alarm from members of the board.

"I can't help but overanalyze that with the young people growing up in this country today just assuming school is unsafe and going into school assuming its an unsafe place because of the news and our country's obsession with violence and guns," said Board Member Mike Moroski. "That's really sad to me because I know — particularly through the work of the policy committee — how many steps we've taken to ensure our schools are safe."

The district maintains that its schools are safe and other members of the board pointed to external factors that could be leading young students to believe their safety is in jeopardy.

"Security was one of the things that is most important to mention and it's so hard to deal with that in a context of a world in which we are living in right now where every day and every week there's another shooting," said Board Vice President Brandon Craig. "Every day of the week there's a person who decides that the best means of addressing their issues is to use violence,"

While safety stood out as a concern, there were other areas where the district felt like it was showing plenty of strength, like student-teacher relationships, with 66% of 3rd through 6th graders viewing those relationships as favorable.

Overall, the board was impressed with the amount responses from the survey. Showing an 82% response rate from 3rd through 6th graders and a 49% response rate from middle schoolers and high schools.

Board President Ben Lindy considered the number of responses a success, saying the school district finally had a set of data that accurately represented all of CPS.

"84% of the student respondents in the lower grades were receiving a free or reduced-priced lunch, and when you look at the racial breakdown and you look at the school breakdown, is there room for improvement? Sure, but this is quite representative of our district. Now we know what to do," Lindy said.

The survey results will be analyzed by the principals and staff from each of the district's schools in the coming weeks and will be used to make decisions about the future of CPS.

The superintendent says another survey is on its way and is expected to be released in early May.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.