A safety panel set up by U.S. President Donald Trump in the wake of numerous school shootings recommended Tuesday that schools consider arming staff, using veterans as guards and reversing Obama-era guidelines.
The Federal Commission on School Safety panel, led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, was set up after the February massacre in Parkland, Florida, when a former student shot dead 17 people, sparking mass gun control protests.
The commission rejected calls to increase the minimum age required for gun purchases, arguing in its 180-page report that most school shooters obtain their weapons from family members or friends.
Instead, it suggested arming staff — even teachers in some circumstances — “for the sake of effectively and immediately responding to violence.”
School districts where police responses could be slower, such as rural districts, may benefit in particular, the commission said.
It also recommended education authorities hiring military veterans and former police officers who “can also serve as highly effective educators.”
Why This Matters
According to a report by the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), 2018 has become the worst year on record for gun violence in schools, with 94 shooting incidents, a 60 percent increase from the previous high of 59 in 2006.
Over 219,000 U.S. students have been involved in a school shooting since the April 1999 Columbine High School massacre, according to figures collated by the Washington Post.
This so-called school safety report is a low grade scam: it does nothing for safety or for schools. Civil rights guidelines that protect children of color from discrimination don’t cause school shootings. Guns do. https://t.co/o2yH0U1NGt
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) December 18, 2018
The report issued by the safety panel pushes for a review of disciplinary guidelines introduced in 2014 under former President Barack Obama, which suggested alternatives to suspension and expulsion to tackle discrimination against black and Latino students.
The commission’s report said the measure has had “a strong negative impact on school discipline and safety.”
The American Civil Liberties Union condemned that proposition.
“The Trump administration is exploiting tragedies to justify rolling back school children’s civil rights protections, despite the lack of any evidence linking school discipline reform to school shootings,” it said in a statement.
Democratic Representative Nancy Pelosi, who will be U.S. House speaker when her party take over the chamber in January, criticized the report saying Trump and DeVos “have reached a new low.”
“Their ‘report’ on school safety puts special interests and the NRA ahead of protecting America’s school children. Students & parents have had #Enough,” Pelosi wrote on Twitter.
The new Democratic Majority will take decisive action to protect students from gun violence & keep schools free from discrimination. #NeverAgain https://t.co/S2928vd3oI
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) December 19, 2018
She drew a backlash from Ryan Petty, a gun enthusiast and school safety advocate whose 14-year-old daughter was killed in the Parkland massacre.
“Hi @NancyPelosi, it’s easy to be a critic. Harder to create. Would you sit down with Parkland families to discuss the report?,” Petty wrote on Twitter.
“We worked hard to ensure this report addresses top school safety priorities. It’s painful for us when you dismiss it without basis in fact,” he added.
More on the Subject
While liberals have been adamant that the U.S. needs to restrict access to firearms, conservatives have tended to focus on the relationship between mental illness and shootings.
Lucy Hodder, a professor of health law and public policy at the University of New Hampshire, told The Globe Post that more research is needed regarding guns and mental health.
“We would be allowed to make informed decisions about the relationship between the availability of guns and bad health outcomes if the federal government was allowed to fund evidence-based research on guns,” Hodder said. “Certainly suicidal ideation that may result from mental illness can lead to death for individuals who have ready access to guns.”
Can Better Mental Health Care Help Prevent US Mass Shootings?