Amid Mass Shootings, Betsy DeVos Wants to Rescind Obama School Discipline Guidelines
By Leonard Greene
The Trump administration's latest answer to deadly mass school shootings is to roll back an Obama-era guidance policy aimed at reducing racial discrimination in student discipline.
A federal commission led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made the proposal Tuesday along with a recommendation to "seriously consider partnering with local law enforcement in the training and arming of school personnel."
"Our conclusions in this report do not impose one-size-fits-all solutions for everyone, everywhere," DeVos said. "The primary responsibility for the physical security of schools and the safety of their students naturally rests with states and local communities."
Trump praised the report at a White House event Tuesday, saying "nothing is more important than protecting our nation's children."
Not on the list of options was anything that had to do with gun control.
Instead, the commission made a controversial suggestion to roll back a guidance policy from 2014 that urges schools not to suspend, expel or report students to police except in the most extreme cases.
President Barack Obama's administration issued the guidelines after determining that black students were more than three times as likely as their white classmates to be suspended or expelled.
Schools suspected of discrimination, even if it is unintentional, run the risk of an investigation or the loss of federal funds.
But after 17 students and staff members were killed at a Parkland, Fla., school on Feb. 14, critics of the Obama guidelines said the new rules could discourage teachers and administrators from telling police about potential shooters.
Among those praising the commission's work was Andy Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was killed in the Parkland shooting.
Pollack praised the administration for "listening to all the facts" and for putting together what he called the "most comprehensive report by any administration on a school shooting."
The proposals drew sharp criticism from Democrats and advocacy groups.
"Despite overwhelming evidence and basic common sense, Secretary DeVos is trying to make the case that it's not weapons of war in schools that make students unsafe, but rather the true danger is schools' attempts to fight racism and inappropriate discipline," said Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate's committee overseeing education.
"We do not need more guns in schools," said Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association. "It is shameful that the Trump administration is using the real risk of gun violence in our schools to strip vulnerable students of their civil rights, while doing nothing to keep all our students safe."
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