WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s Federal Commission on School Safety — established in response to the deadly Valentine’s Day shooting at a South Florida high school — issued its final report Tuesday, calling for increased coordination between schools and local law enforcement agencies while avoiding weighing in on gun-control reforms the president previously supported.
The report, spearheaded by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, also recommends the removal of an Obama-era policy aimed at curbing racial disparities in school discipline, arguing that it limits school administrators’ ability to address students who pose a potential threat to their classmates. Civil rights and education activists have countered that the Obama administration guidelines were meant to ensure that minority students and those with disabilities were not unfairly targeted for disciplinary action.
DeVos, in a call with reporters Tuesday morning, said the panel’s list of recommendations, which includes encouraging schools to work with local law enforcement agencies to provide firearms training for school faculty and staff, are not intended to “impose one-size-fits-all solutions for everyone, everywhere.”
“Ultimately governors and state legislators should work with local school leaders, teachers, parents, and students to address their own unique challenges and develop their own specific solutions,” DeVos said, adding that “the primary responsibility for the physical security of schools and the safety of their students naturally rests with states and local communities."
Other recommendations include expanding policies already in place in some school districts throughout the country, such as encouraging school districts to create incentives to encourage military veterans and ex-law enforcement officers to work in schools, and using software to block students from accessing violent materials while using school computers.
The report did not address raising the age limit to purchase guns from 18 to 21, which was one of the key gun-reform proposals raised by Trump in the days following the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, by a former student. Seventeen students and staff members were killed in that shooting.
Senior Trump administration officials said that while the report calls for schools to seek firearms training for educators, the report in “no way” recommends federal funds be used for teacher firearms training.
Trump touted the 180-page report at a White House gathering Tuesday afternoon with some of the relatives of students killed in the mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman and at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.
"Nothing is more important than protecting our nation's children," Trump said. He told reporters the goal of the report was to “prevent school shootings and keep our children safe."
The report was criticized by the nation’s largest teachers' unions, who said the recommendations stopped short of providing funding for mental health programs and other school-safety initiatives listed in the report.
American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten said in a statement: "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.”
National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen Garcia, referring to the proposed rollback of the Obama disciplinary guidelines, said in a statement: “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 our students safe.”