The U.S. Department of Education is telling education advocates that they will, indeed, have a voice in the work of the White House school safety commission that’s chaired by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
The panel—which is charged with making policy recommendations in the wake of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last month—consists of only four cabinet secretaries: DeVos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. Its first meeting will be held Wednesday behind closed doors.
That’s made education advocates uneasy. Some worry the commission is just a way to stall meaningful gun control and school safety measures.
The department tried to quell those fears in an email Tuesday to more than half a dozen groups representing educators and parents. The main message? You’ll get your say, a department official wrote.
“We’ve been told that tomorrow’s leadership meeting will set the stage for upcoming stakeholder input, and we hope to be back to you regarding your inclusion—as well as that of your members—very soon once this initial meeting is held,” the official wrote.
But advocates still have concerns about the process.
“This is oddly similar to convening a group of men to set the stage for upcoming stakeholder input on women’s health, and inviting the women to participate after the first meeting,” one source said.
Elizabeth Hill, a spokeswoman for the department said that the education community is “absolutely not being ‘left out.’”
“Like we said previously, this is an an organizational meeting for primary members to discuss staffing, timelines, scope, locations for field engagements. Advocates, parents, teachers, students, administrators, law enforcement, mental health professionals and others with be actively engaged in the commission’s work,” she said.
Photo: U.S. Department of Education. (Swikar Patel for Education Week)