School Climate & Safety

At a Glance: Betsy DeVos’ Federal Commission on School Safety

August 28, 2018 4 min read
The school safety commission set up by President Donald Trump after the Parkland, Fla., school shooting has held more than a dozen formal meetings and other sessions since March.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

President Donald Trump set up the Federal Commission on School Safety in March 2018 in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which left 17 people dead. Trump appointed U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to chair the commission, which has spent the past five months holding formal meetings, field visits with invited speakers and experts, and listening sessions with the public, some in Washington and some around the country.

Here are some key points about the commission, its mission, and the controversies that have surrounded it.

Members

Chair, Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education

BRIC ARCHIVE

Jeff Sessions, Attorney General

BRIC ARCHIVE

Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services

BRIC ARCHIVE

Kirstjen M. Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security

BRIC ARCHIVE

Mission

“Quickly providing meaningful and actionable recommendations to keep students safe at school. These recommendations will include a range of issues, like social emotional support, recommendations on effective school safety infrastructure, discussion on minimum age for firearms purchases, and the impact that videogames and the media have on violence.”

Deliberations

In hearings and public comment sessions the commission has heard from a range of experts, educators, and the general public on issues including the wisdom and value of arming school staff members, the importance of student mental-health services, how to preserve student privacy rights while sharing information that may help identify risks of violence, and the roots of that violence.

The commission’s most extended public debates so far over the relationship of guns to school safety have been about whether to arm teachers—an approach favored by Trump—and how to increase the number of armed school resource officers.

But the panel has drawn criticism for steering clear of the politically explosive topic of gun control, both in its witness lineup and in the thrust of the conversation. It has also been criticized for not seeking a diversity of viewpoints and accused of limiting or suppressing comments.

The commission’s official web page states that in addition to its formal sessions, “Meetings and correspondence with students, parents, teachers, school safety personnel, administrators, law enforcement officials, mental health professionals, school counselors, security professionals and other related stakeholders will be critical to the commission’s work as well.”

But one leading gun-control group—the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence—says its repeated requests to testify at a panel have been ignored. March for Our Lives, the youth-led group founded in response to the Parkland attack, has not been invited, either. “They’re the federal government. They should reach out to us,” said Parkland survivor and gun-control activist David Hogg.

DeVos told a Senate committee on June 5 that firearms are “not part of the commission’s charge, per se.” She has said the question of whether to arm teachers should be a local, not a federal one. And Education Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Hill denied that the commission is limiting debate on gun control, noting that there are several ways—outside of invited panels and field visits—for the public and interested parties to submit comments, including in writing or at public listening sessions.

“Throughout the public listening sessions, field visits, and meetings, as well as in the public comment inbox, there has been discussion about gun control,” Hill said. “However, it is important to note that the commission cannot create or amend current guns laws. That is Congress’ job. The commission is focusing on tangible solutions relating to many aspects of school safety that don’t necessarily require an act of Congress.”

Meetings, Hearings, Listening Tours

March 28, 2018
Organizational meeting
Washington

May 17, 2018
Meeting with experts and survivors of mass shootings
Washington

May 31, 2018
Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. Field visit
Hanover, Md.

June 6, 2018
Public listening session
Washington

June 21, 2018
The Ecology of Schools: Fostering a Culture of Human Flourishing and
Developing Character. Commission meeting

Washington

June 26, 2018
Public listening session
Lexington, Ky.

July 11, 2018
Curating a Healthier & Safer Approach: Issues of Mental Health and Counseling for our Young. Commission meeting
Washington

July 24, 2018
Transforming School Climate and Culture to Meet the Behavioral Needs of Students. Field visit
Adams, Wis.

July 26, 2018
Proactively Protecting Our Schools. Commission meeting
Washington

Aug. 1, 2018
Proactively Protecting Our Schools. Field visit
Pearcy, Ark.

Aug. 7, 2018
Public listening session
Cheyenne, Wyo.

August 16, 2018
Creating a Citadel of Learning: New Tools to Secure our Schools, Inside and Out. Commission meeting
Washington

Aug. 23, 2018
Best Practices for School Building Safety. Field visit
Las Vegas

Aug. 28, 2018
Public listening session
Montgomery, Ala.

Sources: Education Week, the Federal Commission on School Safety, Tribune News Service
A version of this article appeared in the August 29, 2018 edition of Education Week as At a Glance: The Federal Commission on School Safety

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
What is it About Math? Making Math Figure-Out-Able
Join Pam Harris for an engaging session challenging how we approach math, resulting in real world math that is “figure-out-able” for anyone.
Content provided by hand2mind
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety School Dress Codes Often Target Girls. What Happens When Male Teachers Have to Enforce Them?
Male teachers say the task can put them in a risky and uncomfortable position.
11 min read
Image of articles of clothing on a coat hook outside a school entrance.
Laura Baker/Education Week via Canva
School Climate & Safety Are School Buses Safe? An Expert Explains
A perennial concern is getting new attention.
4 min read
Photo of rescue workers and turned over school bus.
Brandy Taylor / iStock / Getty Images Plus
School Climate & Safety Jury Finds Michigan School Shooter’s Mother Guilty of Manslaughter
Jennifer Crumbley was accused of failing to secure a gun and ammunition at home and failing to get help for her son's mental health.
2 min read
Jennifer Crumbley arrives in court on Feb. 5, 2024 in Pontiac, Mich.
Jennifer Crumbley arrives in court on Feb. 5, 2024 in Pontiac, Mich.
Carlos Osorio/AP
School Climate & Safety A School Removed Bathroom Mirrors to Keep Students From Making TikToks. Will It Work?
The desperate strategy for keeping students in class illuminates the challenge schools face in competing with social media.
5 min read
Empty blue school bathroom showing the bathroom sinks without mirrors.
iStock/Getty