Education Brief #22
In a White House briefing statement issued on March 12, 2018, President Trump established the Federal Commission on School Safety chaired by Education Secretary Betsey DeVos. The commission was established to address school safety and “a culture of violence”. According to the White House briefing the committee, among other issues, will address:
- Best practices for school buildings and campus security from Federal Government components, including the Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, and also from other State, local, and private sector sources.
- A plan for integration and coordination of Federal resources focused on prevention and mitigation of active shooter incidents at schools.
- Opportunities to improve access to mental health treatment, including through efforts that raise awareness about mental illness and the effectiveness of treatment, reduce barriers to the recruitment of mental health professionals, and provide training related to violence prevention.
- Best practices for school-based threat assessment and violence prevention strategies.
- Existing entertainment rating systems and youth consumption of violent entertainment.
- Strategies to advance the science and practice of character development in youth and a culture of connectedness.
- Effects of press coverage of mass shootings.
According to a press-release by the Department of Education, released nine days after the White House briefing, the members of the committee are: Secretary DeVos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.
The first meeting of the Commission took place on March 28, 2018. According to another press release by the Department of Education they discussed “staffing, the timeline for future meetings with stakeholders, coordination with State and local partners, the scope of the Commission’s work and how best to incorporate stakeholder input on the issue areas President Donald Trump directed the Commission to study.”
Many key stakeholders in the public education community feel that the Commission is leaving out the voices of students, parents, and educators. After the first meeting of the Commission the National Education Association President, Lily Eskelsen García, issued a press release explaining the frustrations. “This commission is meeting just days after hundreds of thousands of students held marches in Washington and across the country to demand meaningful action to prevent gun violence in our schools and communities. Yet, today’s meeting purposefully excludes the voices of students, educators and parents . . . Given the previous actions of DeVos, we’re not surprised that today’s meeting is closed to the media and happening away from the eyes of the public. The commission’s clear purpose is to push an agenda that is focused on a dangerous and misguided plan to put more guns in schools by arming teachers and other school personnel.”
Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat representing Washington, and the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Education Committee, also expressed concerns about the Commission in a statement she released after meeting with DeVos about the Commission. In her statement she specifically called out the NRA’s potential involvement in the Commission. “While Secretary DeVos said she had no interest in meeting with the NRA as a part of this process, she couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me how the NRA would be allowed to influence the commission’s recommendations, or even that they wouldn’t have veto power. She wouldn’t agree to put survivors of gun violence, families of victims, or experts on preventing gun violence on the commission — in fact, she told me that the only people on the commission would be federal officials.”
In response to the concern that there are no students, parents or educators on the committee, DeVos has said, “This is an urgent matter. We want to ensure sure that we are able to move and operate as quickly as possible, without getting bogged down in bureaucracy.”
The committee has not met again and there isn’t a public timeline of when the next meeting will be held.
Email the Commission—Let them know your concerns about school safety directly
Take action with the National Education Association—Tell Congress to pass common-sense gun violence laws
Contact your elected officials—Let them know that you want students and educators to have a voice in this process
This brief was compiled by Rebecca Leclerc. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief please contact, firstname.lastname@example.org.