Dems want DeVos to explain why school safety panel won't focus on guns

Dems want DeVos to explain why school safety panel won't focus on guns
© Greg Nash

Seventeen members of the House Education Committee are calling on Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosDeVos calls Democratic presidential hopeful's education plans 'crazy' What the next Education secretary must do Duke-UNC v. DOE: Riding a wave of mutual antagonism MORE to explain why a White House commission on school safety will not focus on gun violence. 

In the letter, the Democrats, led by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), write that "a conversation on school safety void of the discussion of guns ignores a significant root of the problem." 

ADVERTISEMENT

"The Commission was charged with recommending policies and funding proposals to prevent school violence," the letter said. "A core element of combating school violence is addressing gun violence, both in school and in our communities."

The letter was sent to DeVos just two days after she told lawmakers that the White House's school safety commission would not look into the role firearms play in gun violence at schools. DeVos's comments quickly drew scrutiny, as President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi arrives in Jordan with bipartisan congressional delegation Trump says his Doral resort will no longer host G-7 after backlash CNN's Anderson Cooper mocks WH press secretary over Fox News interview MORE established the Federal Commission on School Safety after a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., left 17 dead. 

When establishing the panel in March, Trump said it would “study and make recommendations” on several topics, such as age restrictions for certain gun purchases.

Democratic lawmakers acknowledged that DeVos and the commission she chairs may not be able to change laws, but that it "can study and develop 'meaningful and actionable recommendations to keep students safe at school,' which may include policy recommendations to Congress or regulatory actions for other agencies."

The letter also notes a report that said nearly 60 percent of high school students fear gun violence at their school or in their community. 

The school safety panel held its first public forum on Wednesday. Parents and educators used it as a chance to ask the Education Department to add more mental health resources and anti-gun violence programs in America's schools 

Deputy Education Secretary Mick Zais said during the session that the safety commission would look into the "narrow aspects of gun ownership," according to CNN.

A graduating high school senior in attendance at the event said DeVos and her commission's efforts to improve school safety are “misguided and inefficient.”