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

Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

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 Explainer: Why Was Michigan Suspect Charged With Terrorism?
He also was charged with first-degree murder, assault with intent to commit murder and gun crimes in Tuesday's attack at Oxford High School.
3 min read
Parents walk away with their kids from the Meijer's parking lot in Oxford where many students gathered following an active shooter situation at Oxford High School, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in Oxford, Mich. Police took a suspected shooter into custody and there were multiple victims, the Oakland County Sheriff's office said.
Parents walk away with their kids from the Meijer's parking lot in Oxford where many students gathered following an active shooter situation at Oxford High School, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in Oxford, Mich. Police took a suspected shooter into custody and there were multiple victims, the Oakland County Sheriff's office said.
Eric Seals/Detroit Free Press via AP
School Climate & Safety What This Week's Mass Shooting Can Teach Us About School Safety
The incident in Michigan, the deadliest school shooting in three years, will add to a wrenching school safety debate.
7 min read
A well wisher kneels to pray at a memorial on the sign of Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. A 15-year-old sophomore opened fire at the school, killing several students and wounding multiple other people, including a teacher.
A mourner kneels at a memorial in Oxford, Mich., site of the deadliest school shooting since 2018.
Paul Sancya/AP
School Climate & Safety Mich. Student Kills 4 in Deadliest School Shooting Since 2018
A 15-year-old boy has been charged with murder, terrorism, and other crimes for a shooting that killed four students and injured others.
3 min read
Dozens of police, fire, and EMS personnel work on the scene of a shooting at Oxford High School, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, In Oxford Township, Mich.
Dozens of police, fire, and EMS personnel work on the scene of a shooting at Oxford High School, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, In Oxford Township, Mich.
Todd McInturf/The Detroit News/AP
School Climate & Safety Violence, Hate Crimes in Schools Surged in Pre-COVID Period, Federal Watchdog Finds
Data from several years preceding the pandemic sketched a troubling trajectory, the Government Accountability Office found.
7 min read
Hands of people point to a boy insinuating bullying.
iStock/Getty Images Plus