DeVos’ Phony School Safety Commission Report from Diane Ravitch

After the massacre of 17 students at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last February, the Trump administration created a commission headed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to come up with recommendations to make schools safe.

The report was released today and landed with a great thud.

Some of its proposals were already in place. Contrary to Trump’s demand, it did not recommend arming teachers. It did not call for age limits on access to guns. It recommended mental health measures but did not propose funding for what it thought necessary.

Politico summarized the report here.

The DeVos Commission said nothing about gun control. Its most consequential proposal was to rollback Obama discipline guidelines that instructed schools not to hand out punishments to black students that were disproportionate to those given to white students. This is a bizarre recommendation, since the shooter at Parkman had been expelled and was white. No connection between the crime and the “remedy.”

Randi Weingarten issued a comprehensive critique of this toothless report:

“The Federal Commission on School Safety took a horrendous year of school shooting tragedies and produced a report with a smorgasbord of recommendations—some of which we have championed for years—aimed at making our schools safer. Unfortunately, the report doesn’t address the root causes of the gun violence epidemic: too many guns in our communities and not enough investment in addressing the social-emotional health of our kids. And, sadly, the Trump administration has no coherent plan to address this crisis.

“While the report proposes some worthy strategies already recommended by students, teachers and school staff—including support for school counselors, cyberbullying prevention, extreme-risk protection orders, the troops-to-teachers program, and active shooter training—it does not contain a single proposal for new funding for these initiatives.

“What’s more, the commission appears to punt on the question of arming teachers, rather than taking a strong stance against it, even though parents, students and teachers agree: Putting more guns in schools only risks making schools less safe. But Betsy DeVos continually advocates for this lunacy. The report doesn’t recommend age restrictions on firearms and appears more concerned with the National Rifle Association and the school security industry than with the needs of the people in classrooms.

“But most curious and disappointing is the report’s use of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to push an anti-civil rights agenda that won’t keep schools safe. The report suggests rolling back Obama-era school discipline guidance that was intended to help prevent the disproportionate suspension and expulsion of students of color, students with disabilities and LGBTQ youth—under the guise of making schools safer. The shooter at Stoneman Douglas had in fact been expelled and reported to law enforcement; rescinding discipline guidance and kicking kids out of school doesn’t prevent school shootings.

“Today, the commission and the Trump administration missed an opportunity to bring the country together. Parents, students and educators want schools to be safe. That requires fair discipline policies, but also a real investment in meaningful mental health supports and other key recommendations in the report, plus the advancement of commonsense gun safety reforms to help curb the gun violence epidemic in our country.”

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