What does "Safety" mean to a parent?

When a parent says "safety is important" in choosing a school, does that refer to... A. Safety within the school.

or

b. Safety on the way to and from school....i.e., the neighborhood.

I got ahold of a data set that sheds some light on this point.

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An advisory committee released a progress report on their website, and it's worth reading if find this topic of interest. They also released some great raw data. Of course I'm always hungry for raw data.

One spreadsheet has over 2,000 parent survey responses. There are various questions along the lines of "what matters most in choosing a school." The answers are some version of proximity, academics, and safety.

In reading it, I wondered what parents meant by "safety." So I looked through the first 100 records, and where I could, I classified what parents meant. It's highly unscientific...just interesting.

A. 9 parents associate "safety" as being within the school.

I think students behavior is one of my top priorities. Teachers often have to spend large amounts of time dealing with discipline and that takes away from teaching. No matter how good a teacher is, one student can disrupt the learning of all the others in such a way that the teaching will stop.

School safety, how well does administration deal with disruptive and unsafe students.

The consensus among local parents in my area is that ... and ... are chaotic, poorly managed, and academically inferior. We have been told that behavioral problems are rife.

Safety. BPS has to stop shuffling administrators around when their actions hurt children, and start firing them.

Less chaos in the school building.

As before, if it doesn't feel safe, it's a no-go for us. But since I really think that's baseline, I'd say welcoming culture is next. If I and my child won't feel good about the school and the teachers and personnel there, I would not send her. I saw schools where the bulletin boards are blank because kids rip them down. That's not the kind of place we want to be. If discipline is the main order of the day, that's not a good culture for learning.

Safety is the most important. I have found from experience that bullying is tolerated in BPS, and that administrators are more likely to participate in bullying than to stop it. I would only send my child to a school that is safe.

School safety, how well does administration deal with disruptive and unsafe students.

Safety. I would never send my child to a school that has a reputation for being an unsafe, out of control environment.

B. 5 parents associate "safety" as being a neighborhood issue -- i.e., they're more worried about their kid heading to and from school.

Safety... Some are in rough neighborhoods and I wouldn't necessarily feel comfortable bringing my child there.

School safety is most important, followed closely by academics. I feel very safe in our W. Roxbury neighborhood and feel good about my son attending school nearby. I don't believe in long travel times for young kids. And, I know both of these have good academics. If we do not get in to our local school, he will attend ... or ... in W. Roxbury.

Safety. I don't want my son going to school in an area that I didn't choose to live

Theoretically, I value school choice, but in practice it seems like there are not enough schools I would feel comfortable sending my child to to go around. I am concerned about the safety of certain neighborhoods and not about the quality of the teaching; I am a teacher myself and have much firsthand knowledge about issues of safety in certain schools and communities. It's the unfortunate legacy of horrible racism in our country and urban poverty.

Safety. I don't want my son going to school in an area that I didn't choose to live.

This comment is a mix, I suppose.

Safety is Paramount! ... has a great reputation but I don't like how close they are to the projects which is known to have higher crime. Also the graffiti wall in the back is depressing. I respect graffiti as art especially when it illustrates something but this doesn't communicate anything.

What to make of all this?

My read of that data is it shows that BPS could appeal to more families if they can improve "in-school" safety/culture -- which I'd argue is 1) an essential-but-insufficient condition to academic gains, and 2) a longer-term driver of neighborhood safety.

But that doesn't help them right now. BPS is trying to thread a needle here in allocating a limited resource -- seats at schools that parents want. There are competing parent interests. Previous efforts to change the student assignment process have not gone smoothly.

Imagine a middle class, 2 parent family who lives in West Roxbury. They want to send their kids to the school down the street. The typical BPS school has 70% poor students. But the school down the street has just 32% poor students. So the policy they want is to maximize "Walk Zone Priority."

A single mom who lives with Grandma on Geneva Ave in Dorchester is often more interested in getting her kids OUT of the neighborhood. The nearby elementary school is one of the lowest rated on MCAS in the whole state of Massachusetts.

The first type of parent tends to have more political power.

But there are more in total of the second type of parent.

I appreciate the folks who are trying to dig in here, and make a better public policy going forward, including Imani, Hardin, Laura, Bill, et al. Not easy.