Betsy DeVos Might Let Schools Buy Guns For Teachers With Federal Funding — REPORT
In an unprecedented federal policy reversal, the Education Department under Betsy DeVos reportedly may allow schools to buy guns for teachers using federal funding, according to a New York Times report. This update is the latest, following a statement from DeVos in June that the Federal Commission on School Safety, established in response to the Parkland shooting, would not be looking into the role of guns in school shootings. Bustle has reached out to the Department of Education for comment on the report.
"The department is constantly considering and evaluating policy issues, particularly issues related to school safety," Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the Education Department told The Times. "The secretary nor the department issues opinions on hypothetical scenarios."
In March, following the Parkland shooting, the House passed the Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act of 2018, which allocated public schools $50 million annually to train students and staff to recognize and prevent threats, as well as strengthen schools' security. According to The Times, the bill specifically states the money cannot be used for purchasing firearms.
DeVos, who in March said arming teachers with guns "should be an option for states and communities to consider," is considering getting around this restriction using something called Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, which don't expressly prohibit funding for weapons, the report claims. According to "multiple people familiar with the plan" who spoke to The Times, under those grants, any state or school district seeking funding for firearms or firearm training could get approval from the Education Department, barring any legislative intervention from Congress.
Following Parkland, President Trump and the National Rifle Association called for arming teachers with guns as a front-line defensive measure against school shooters. "A teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened," Trump said in his speech at the Conservative Politcal Action Conference in February.
A Gallup poll in March found that only 7 percent of American teachers support the idea. According to The Washington Post, in the wake of the shooting, 14 Republican-led bills were drafted to give public school teachers and staff access to firearms, but only one succeeded. The bill that did pass, in Florida, didn't even allow for teachers to be trained or armed, only auxiliary school staff, said The Post.
While DeVos agrees with the president on arming teachers, she offered a slightly more moderate approach on the Today Show in March. "It should be those [teachers] who are capable and qualified and only in places where it’s appropriate," she said, including that she didn't think every classroom needs an armed teacher.
When the Federal Commission on School Safety was established in March, it was tasked with "quickly providing meaningful and actionable recommendations to keep students safe at school." At a Senate budget meeting in June, however, DeVos made it clear that the Commission's assessments would not include information about the part guns play in the recent reports of deadly gun violence on school campuses.
"You’re studying gun violence but not considering the role of guns?" Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont asked DeVos during the meeting.
DeVos deflected, "We’re actually studying school safety and how we can ensure our students are safe at school." Unless the Commission changed course on its approach, from The Times report, it's presumable that the new Department of Education plan was created without much assessment on the implications of guns in schools.