Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

Students, others, say school safety commission should focus on guns

June 7, 2018
Safety panel formed after Parkland, Fla., high school shootings, hears testimony from the public one day after its chair, Betsy DeVos, said the commission wouldn't look at the role guns play in school violence.

Several students and others offering testimony to a federal school safety commission criticized the commission's leader, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, for stating that it will not focus on the role guns have in school violence.

CNN reports that the complaints about DeVos and the commission came in Washington, D.C., at the panel's first full-day public listening session since it was formed earlier this year in the aftermath of the deadly shooting attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

DeVos did not attend the session.

Alessia Modjarrad, a graduating high school senior from Montgomery County, Md., told the commission that the Trump Administration's efforts to address school safety have been "misguided and inefficient."

"We, the students, experience the American school system every day," Modjarrad says. "We used to sit in classrooms waiting for something to be done. I don't want to be scared. I don't want to think that, at any moment, someone with a gun could walk in and hurt us all."

Modjarrad called on DeVos and the commission to reconsider its "current complicit stance on the role of guns in school safety" and argued that it should be its most important focus.

"I would ask to please consider the possibilities that guns are the most important aspect of the purview of this commission," she said.

DeVos told a Senate subcommittee hearing earlier in the week that the federal commission would not focus on the role that guns played in school violence.

At the listening session, Michael Yin, who has just graduated from a Montgomery County, Md., high school said: "I believe this commission should look at guns. Rather than being a sign of cowardice it would show great courage for this commission and this administration."

The commission also heard from experts and advocates within the education community, as well as educators, parents and students. A number of speakers called for increasing students' access to mental health professionals.

A number of speakers said they did not support proposals to train and arm educators, something that the president has called for.

"Such proposals stem from a desperate and well-intentioned effort to do something—anything—to make parents and community members believe schools are safer, but the effect would be the opposite," said Zachary Scott, a lobbyist with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

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