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New poll shows more TN parents are concerned about their child's mental health in school

The Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy ran its annual poll exploring what parents in Tennessee are most concerned about for their children.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy released the results of a new poll, finding that most of the Tennessee parents they surveyed were concerned about their child's education.

The poll asked parents to answer a series of questions about their children, and what their top concerns were for them. They said they surveyed 1,034 Tennessee parents with children under 18 years old in November. The ranked list of concerns is available below.

  1. Education and school quality
  2. Child mental health and suicide
  3. Bullying, including cyberbullying
  4. School gun violence
  5. Drug and alcohol abuse
  6. Safe and affordable housing
  7. Not enough exercise or physical activity
  8. Childcare availability or affordability
  9. Car accidents
  10. Sexual behavior and teen pregnancy
  11. Community gun violence
  12. Racial inequity
  13. Smoking and tobacco use (including vaping, e-cigarettes)
  14. Getting sick from COVID-19
  15. Body image/eating disorders
  16. Obesity

The poll also found results for specific regions across Tennessee. In East Tennessee, parents were most worried about the quality of their children's schools. They were worried about their child's mental health next, followed by concerns about bullying. Fourth on the list was drug and alcohol use, followed by school gun violence.

The center also released data about how parents of different demographics responded. White parents were most concerned about education and child mental health.

However, Black parents in Tennessee were most concerned about education quality and racial inequity. The poll surveyed 761 white parents and 119 Black parents.

The center said that the top five concerns in the poll were similar to parents' concerns from previous years. However, they noted that school gun violence appeared in the top five for the first time. They started running the poll in 2020.

"I'm concerned about school security because of the shootings. I am also concerned about bullying because, unfortunately, kids can just be really mean to each other," said Tim Buss, who has two daughters in Knox County Schools.

One mother in East Tennessee also said that mental health is at the top of her mind when it comes to her 5-year-old daughter. 

"She's not old enough to be like, 'Mom, it's been a stressful day.' So, I try to look at those kinds of signs and just try to see, 'Is she acting out of character today? Is she getting upset easily?'" said Hannah Shelton.

Knox County Schools recently approved a $1.8 million contract with the McNabb Center to expand mental health services in schools. 

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