The Federal Commission on School Safety created by President Donald Trump following the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will not examine the role of guns in school violence, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Tuesday.
DeVos testified before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee, which oversees education spending, regarding the Department of Education’s 2019 budget.
Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, questioned DeVos on the scope of the commission’s work regarding guns in school, reports The Guardian.
“Will your commission look at the role of firearms as it relates to gun violence in our schools?” he asked.
“That is not part of the commission’s charge per se,” DeVos responded. “We are actually studying school safety and how we can ensure our students are safe at school.”
“So you are studying gun violence, but not considering the role of guns,” Leahy retorted.
He later asked DeVos whether she believes an 18-year-old high school student should be able to purchase an AR-15-style assault weapon, which has been used in many recent mass shootings.
“I believe that’s very much a matter for debate,” DeVos replied.
Additionally, DeVos said that the commission will not look into best practices of foreign nations that have much lower rates of gun violence when asked by Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat. Since 2009, the United States has had 57 times more school shootings than other G-7 countries combined, Shaheen said.
DeVos said the panel will examine 27 different issues surrounding school safety but did not elaborate, according to The Sun Sentinel. The commission aims to produce a report on best practices by the end of the year.
“The role of the safety commission is to ensure that we raise up these practices and encourage states to look at them and encourage communities to look at them,” DeVos said.
Last week, as part of the panel’s work, DeVos visited an elementary school in Maryland that has moved away from strict discipline policies in favor of softer approaches, like restorative justice programs, to foster a positive school environment.
The panel, which DeVos chairs, has received criticism for not including any Democrats or educators.
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