Survey: 31% of US parents said they would keep their child home from school
Results from a national survey published in JAMA Pediatrics showed that 31% of U.S. parents said they would probably or definitely keep their child home from school this fall, whereas 49% said they would probably or definitely send them.
Emily Kroshus, ScD, MPH, a research assistant professor at the University of Washington, and colleagues reported responses from 730 parents on whether they would send their children back to school for in-person learning and other factors that could help determine this decision.
“I think the study results suggest that this is an individualized decision, and that families are weighing a lot of factors — some of them clinical, for example medical vulnerability in their family, and some of them psychosocial and contextual,” Kroshus told Healio.
The researchers considered measures such as a family’s socioeconomic status, medical vulnerability, concern about COVID-19 and/or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), confidence in the school and difficulties with homeschooling.
Of those surveyed who responded that they would keep their children home, 38% reported an annual income of less than $50,000 per year compared with 21% who had incomes between $100,000 and $150,000. Being unemployed (40% vs. 26% employed) also was associated with plans to keep children at home.
Data showed that parents with children in grades 3 to 5 were more likely to say they would keep them at home compared with parents with children in high school.
“A lot of parents are worried, in general, about sending their children back to school in-person when that becomes an option,” Kroshus said. “Supporting them in this decision requires understanding all of the factors influencing their preferences, some of which are modifiable, some of which are outside of their control.”
Parents also showed that they did not have confidence in schools or in homeschooling. More parents with children in prekindergarten through grade 2 anticipated having a harder time homeschooling their children than parents with children in grades 3 to 5 or in grades 6 to 8.
“I think schools need adequate funding to implement preventive measures, so that in-person attendance is a reasonable and safe choice for families,” Kroshus said.
In a related editorial, Danielle G. Dooley, MD, MPhil; Nathaniel S. Beers, MD, MPA; and Joelle N. Simpson, MD, MPH, all of Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., argued that school systems need to address the concerns of parents for them to be able to have trust in sending their children to school.
Dooley said a universal policy of sending every child back to school will not work.
“Dr. Beers and I would like to emphasize that the one-size-fits-all approach of uniform school closures does not reflect an equity approach and does not holistically consider the needs of multiple groups of children, including those with medical complexity or those with issues in accessing internet or electronic devices for virtual learning,” Dooley told Healio.