To many older Americans, all this sounds deeply suspicious. How can kids feel increasingly safe in a country where school shootings have become almost as routine as fire drills? There doesn’t seem to be any one reason for teenagers’ relative calm; rather, it's a combination of practical and psychological factors. In the wake of Columbine et al, schools have bulked up security — in part to quell students’ fears of violence, but also to calm parental nerves. So maybe it’s not such a surprise that many students feel safe: Surveillance cameras, metal detectors and daily pat-downs do tend to create a high-security atmosphere. In addition, despite the rash of school shootings, fights and other disturbances in schools are down by between 20 and 30 percent, figures that reflect a general decline in violence. And then there is the matter of a strong economy; good times tend to infect the national psyche with a pervasive sense of well-being. Nothing like extra pocket money to bring back teenagers’ infamous sense of invincibility.
Kids today feel safer than they did five years ago? Did the pollsters feed the data into the wrong hole? These are the questions no doubt running through the minds of parents and educators as they mull the counterintuitive results of a New York Times/CBS poll, released Wednesday, which shows that the vast majority of American teenagers feel somewhat safe, safe or extremely safe in their schools. In 1994, 40 percent of teenagers worried they would be a victim of violence in school or on the street. Today, only 24 percent fear for their safety. (The results are virtually identical for students at rural, suburban and urban campuses.)