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Gun violence a big concern for West Tennessee parents, according to new Vanderbilt poll

The new poll from the Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy found across the state, parents are concerned about education and school equality.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A new poll from the Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy found across the state, parents are concerned about education and school equality. However, while that is top on the list of parental concerns - when breaking down areas by region and race, things start to vary.

"The last two years have been exceptionally challenging for Tennessee families. The Vanderbilt Child Health Poll enables us to hear directly from parents about the most pressing issues their children are facing," said Stephen Patrick, MD, MPH, director of the Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy.

The poll found that the top five concerns for Black parents were as follows:

  • Education and school equality
  • Getting sick from COVID
  • Racial inequality
  • Gun violence and injuries
  • Bullying

White parents had slightly different concerns:

  • Education and school equality
  • Child mental health
  • Bullying
  • Drug and Alcohol use
  • Getting sick from COVID

"Overall, we see that parents are worried about their children's education, mental health, and cyberbullying. However, we also see differences in parents' priorities based on their race and location," said Patrick.

"We see that one in three Black parents worry about gun violence, and they are worried about racial inequality. And that doesn't make the top five list, where we see cyberbullying and mental health. Yet, one in three White parents are worried about that," he said. “I think it shows the different experiences that black children (face), and I think - as we think about how we are going to usher in the new year, how can we address the unique issues children face when it comes to racial injustice and systematic racism?"

Regionally, parents consistently listed education and school quality as their top concern, though there were slight differences in ranking.

West Tennessee is the only area where gun violence is listed by parents as a big concern. East Tennessee is the only part of the state to list drugs and alcohol as a big concern. Disruptions to school due to COVID-19 are concerns of parents in all regions.

"One in three in West Tennessee worry about gun violence. It is less than the rest of the state. It's one in ten in the Middle and East Tennessee, just reflecting some of the differences in the region," said Patrick.

The poll is conducted annually and covers a range of issues, including health insurance status, schooling, behavioral health, food security, and access to health care.

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