‘Everything Is on the Table’ for DeVos-Led School Safety Panel

Secretary of Education will lead Trump administration's efforts to protect students, arm trained teachers, and encourage other gun-related policy proposals

“Everything is on the table” for securing schools against attacks like Parkland, Florida’s high school massacre, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said Monday on NBC News’ “Today” morning show.

“I think schools have to be protected like every other large gathering place. We protect stadiums. We protect theaters. We protect airports. And we need to make sure that schools are protected in the same way. They have our most valuable asset — our students,” DeVos said.

Her comments came just a day after she was named to head a new White House commission examining the methods and tools necessary to strengthen and secure schools against deadly attacks like the February 14 assault by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

When co-host Savannah Guthrie asked DeVos about the Trump administration’s alleged waffling on the idea of an age 21 minimum for firearm purchases, DeVos said the commission “is going to be looking at this issue, along with a number of other issues.”

“And the point [is] that we have to get much broader than just talking about guns and a gun issue where camps go into their corners,” DeVos said. “Everything is on the table, and this commission will be studying it, along with many other issues. And we’ll be forthcoming with solutions.”

DeVos and other members of the commission whose formation was announced Sunday are tasked with preparing proposal guidelines supported by President Donald Trump and for consideration by Congress and state legislators.

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“Today we are announcing meaningful actions, steps that can be taken right away to help protect students,” DeVos told reporters Sunday. “Far too often, the focus has been only on the most contentious fights — the things that have divided people and sent them into their entrenched corners.”

“But the plan that we’re going to advance and talk about is a pragmatic plan to dramatically increase school safety and to take steps to do so right away,” DeVos said.

Trump has backed measures to arm and train qualified teachers who volunteer in the plan and pledged that the Department of Justice would help fund the school safety programs. The plan also includes expanding mental health programs and boosting background checks for firearm purchases. It also encourages veterans to pursue careers in education that would let them use their firearms skills.

The plan doesn’t require bumping the minimum firearm purchasing age from 18 to 21 after White House officials scaled back the idea, despite Trump’s early support for the idea.

“On 18-to-21 Age Limits, watching court cases and rulings before acting. States are making this decision. Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly),” Trump tweeted Monday.

“Very strong improvement and strengthening of background checks will be fully backed by White House. Legislation moving forward. Bump Stocks will soon be out. Highly trained expert teachers will be allowed to conceal carry, subject to State Law. Armed guards OK, deterrent!” Trump added.

“If schools are mandated to be gun free zones, violence and danger are given an open invitation to enter. Almost all school shootings are in gun free zones. Cowards will only go where there is no deterrent!”

The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement Monday that it would be “stepping up actions to better protect our nation’s schools against gun violence, as well as other potential threats.”

“No child should have to worry about their safety when in school,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said. “The department’s top priority is to keep the American people safe, and we are closely examining ways to better protect our nation’s students and schools from gun violence.”

“While state and local partners have primary responsibility for the physical security at schools, through trainings, best practices guides, workshops, and tabletop exercises, we hope to improve awareness and foster a culture of preparedness,” Nielsen added. “We are working with partners around the country to harden these vulnerable targets.”

DHS efforts also include partnering with local officials to identify “suspicious activity” and strengthen “public awareness campaigns” encouraging Americans to report such activity to law enforcement.

In addition, DHS announced that it had established an executive steering committee “that will drive DHS school security efforts, in support of state and local efforts, and ensure the resources and expertise of the department are best leveraged to protect our nation’s schools against attack.”

Related: Americans Blame Gov’t More Than Lack of Gun Control for Mass Shootings

DeVos also said the commission plans to “go back to the beginning and talk about how these violent acts are even occurring to begin with,” noting that she will examine a wide array of issues pertaining to schools and students’ behavior.

A Rasmussen Reports poll released Monday showed Americans’ strong concerns about discipline in schools.

“More Americans believe a lack of discipline is the biggest issue in the classroom, and most think school children have it too easy these days,” Rasmussen noted.

PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter.

(photo credit, article image: Betsy DeVos, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore)

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