Trump administration to aid states in firearms training for teachers, school staff
The White House on Sunday night announced backing for a new Justice Department program that would aid states that seek to train teachers and other school personnel to carry firearms, as part of a package of steps to curb school violence.
In addition, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will chair a government commission exploring steps to prevent school violence, following the Parkland, Fla., shooting last month that left 17 dead, the Trump administration said.
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“We are committed to working quickly because there’s no time to waste,” DeVos said on a conference call with reporters. “No student, no family, no teacher and no school should have to live the horror of Parkland or Sandy Hook or Columbine again.”
DeVos said the commission would include teachers. A senior administration official on the call said that it was expected the work would be completed within a year. The official said existing Justice Department funds would be used to assist states and local law enforcement groups that want to bolster their armed school personnel programs.
The administration said the commission will address issues such as whether to repeal Obama-era school discipline efforts, the impact of video games on youth violence and the effects of press coverage of mass violence.
As part of the package that Andrew Bremberg, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council called “immediate policy proposals,” the administration said it was putting its support behind a bill by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) designed to improve background checks for gun purchases.
The White House also backed a bill that’s been dubbed the “STOP School Violence Act” that would essentially repurpose a $50 million Justice Department program focused on school safety.
The administration called on states to adopt “extreme risk protection orders” that allow states to remove firearms from individuals who are a demonstrated threat to themselves or others and called for an audit of the FBI’s tip line.
The proposal did not include calling for raising the age to 21 for the purchases of some rifles — an idea Trump has said he backs. The senior administration official said the issue of how states are addressing the age restrictions will be addressed by the commission.
The proposal did say the administration would “support the transition” of military veterans and retired police officers who want to go into teaching. It also said the administration would encourage attorneys general in the states to audit school district compliance with state emergency preparedness activities.
On the mental health front, the administration called for a review of privacy laws to “determine if any changes or clarifications are needed to improve coordination between mental health and other healthcare professionals, school officials and law enforcement personnel.”
DeVos said in an interview airing on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday that she believes arming teachers “should be an option for states and communities to consider,” though said she “couldn’t ever imagine” her own first-grade teacher being armed in the classroom.
“I have actually asked to head up a task force that will really look at what states are doing,” DeVos said, according to an advance transcript. “See, there are a lot of states that are addressing these issues in very cohesive and coherent ways.”