The White House commission on school safety—headed up by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos—will hold its very first “organizational” meeting March 28, just four days after hundreds of thousands of students from the country are scheduled to march on Washington to protest gun violence.
The meeting will be closed to the press.
The commission is charged with making recommendations on how to improve school safety in the wake of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman High School last month, which left 17 people dead. Besides DeVos, the membership consists of three other cabinet secretaries: Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.
The commission plans to hear from students, parents, teachers, school safety personnel, administrators, law enforcement officials, mental health professionals, school counselors, security professionals, and others before making its recommendations. Its work could include forums in different parts of the country.
But already, education advocates are skeptical of the commission’s make-up and purpose.
Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach, the director of government relations at the National Association of School Psychologists, wondered how productive a commission comprised of four cabinet secretaries could really be on this topic.
“I’m really trying to not to be cynical about it,” she said. “We were hoping this would include researchers and experts as opposed to four cabinet secretaries trying to get input from all of their different groups and then making a decision behind closed doors. Maybe they’ll surprise us. That’s my hope.”
DeVos told a congressional panel that the commission is made up of only cabinet secretaries so that it can get down to work quickly.
Photo: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos leans over to listens to U.S. Department of Education staffer Bill Cordes as they wait to testify before a House Committee on Appropriation subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 20. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
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