Betsy DeVos had set up the federal school safety commission in the wake of the 14 February shooting that left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. But, during testimony in front of Congress Ms DeVos said guns were “not part of the commission’s charge, per se”.
Though pressed further for answers, Ms DeVos only said that the commission will look into “school safety and how we can ensure our students are safe at school”. However, the White House issued a statement when the group was established that said "age restrictions for certain firearm purchases” would be one of its agenda items.
According to CNN, the first meeting of the commission involved touring “a Maryland elementary school that focuses on positive behavioural intervention, which focuses on mentoring and counselling as opposed to punitive discipline practices”. Possible changes to gun laws were not discussed.
US Department of Education spokesperson Elizabeth Hill told the Huffington Post that though Ms DeVos seemed to suggest the commission would not touch the issue of guns, recommendations regarding age restrictions on firearm purchases are “one of the 27 items to be addressed by the report” that Ms DeVos said should be done by the end of the year.
Ms Hill also noted “that the commission cannot create or amend current gun laws — that is the Congress’ job”.
After the Parkland shooting, student survivors organised, staged sit-ins, attended a forum at the White House, and held a massive march in several cities around the country to support amending gun control laws.
At the time, President Donald Trump had suggested that arming teachers was one method of reducing school shootings. Since his comment, scores more have been injured at 10 people died in school shootings in Indiana and Texas.
Ms DeVos had voiced support for the idea as well.
Other suggestions made by members of Congress and other politicians - many of whom receive millions in campaign contributions and assistance from the National Rifle Association (NRA) - are to reduce violence in video games, reduce the number of doors in schools, and restricting access to pornography.
Teachers in the meantime offered other suggestions in the form of the hashtag #ArmMeWith. Several posted pictures with signs that said what they really need for their students is better mental health counselling, up to date textbooks and technology, and overall better working and learning conditions in school buildings.