Do students, faculty feel safe at Lee County Schools? District survey finds mixed results

Reporter: Peter Fleischer
Published: Updated:

Students and even some faculty members report feeling unsafe in their learning and teaching environments, according to survey data recently published by Lee County Schools.

Students are at school to learn and develop, while faculty is there to teach and promote growth. But the school experience can be difficult if those at school don’t feel safe.

“This is one of the top concerns that administrators are dealing with and frustrating teachers,” Lee County school board member Jada Langford-Fleming said at a meeting reviewing the survey data and safety numbers. “It prevents them from doing what they love to do.”

A survey conducted by Lee Schools during the 2022-23 school year asked elementary, middle, and high school students, and faculty members if they had a safe environment at school.

The survey asked three specific questions:

To elementary school students: “Do adults make us feel safe?”

To middle and high school students: “Do adults make decisions to keep us safe?”

To faculty members: “Do we think of everyone’s safety when making decisions?”

12% of elementary students, 29% of middle school students and 35% of high school students answered “no.”

12% of district employees also said “no.”

Lee County Schools safety survey data

“One of the things that comes up is culture. One of the reasons teachers are leaving right now: discipline,” school board member Sam Fisher said. “It’s one of the things I hear about constantly.”

The survey was unveiled barely one month after the Florida Department of Education published SESIR data for the 2022-23 school year.

SESIR– school environmental safety incident reporting – tracks the most disruptive incidents that take place in Florida schools. Lee County saw more than a 7% increase in incidents from the previous year.

“I don’t know how to tell you other than to just be transparent: our goal that as our population rises, it’s not enough to just see our numbers remain the same,” Lee Schools superintendent Dr. Chris Bernier said. “Our goal will be to see these numbers continue to decline.”

The school board also reviewed SESIR trends, comparing the most recent data to years past. In Lee County, the top three incidents over the last four years were fighting, tobacco use, and drug use. All of those numbers were increased during the 2023 school year when compared to the 2022 school year.

On the bright side, the fourth and fifth top incidents from the past four years, battery and campus disruptions, went down for the 2023 school year.

Data published by FLDOE

In the graphic above, the orange number represents the percentage of students involved in SESIR incidents relative to the district’s total student enrollment.

The district also reported disciplinary data from the fall semester of the 2024 school year. The top three incidents for the 2023 and 2024 school years were disruptive behavior, insubordination and disrespect, and skipping.

The district saw increases in all three of those categories.

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