FOR THE WEEK OF SEP. 03, 2018
Bold firearms idea from the U.S. education secretary stirs a debate about safeguarding schools
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An attention-grabbing federal policy proposal sparks fresh discussion about protecting American schools from shootings. The Education Department is considering whether to let states use federal education money to buy guns for educators. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos believes she can approve any state or district request to use Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants for firearms and firearm training, unless Congress bans the move. Officials say they began exploring the possibility after Texas asked whether it could use part of that money for weapons. Texas and at least eight other states let school employees be armed or have access to firearms.
If DeVos' agency proceeds, it would reverse "a longstanding position taken by the federal government that it should not pay to outfit schools with weapons," The New York Times says. "And it would also undermine efforts by Congress to restrict the use of federal funding on guns. As recently as March, Congress passed a school safety bill that allocated $50 million a year to local school districts, but expressly prohibited the use of the money for firearms." A Republican senator, however, is among those who think states and districts deserve flexibility. They should "make the decision about how to use those federal dollars to make schools safer for children," says Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
On the opposite side, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., sponsors a bill to block use of federal dollars for school district weapons purchases. And at the public school level, most reactions are negative. "This is the worst theory of action I've ever heard,” tweets Texas teacher Shanna Peeples, the 2015 National Teacher of the Year. "None of us are trained to respond to threats in the way law enforcement is." A recent survey by the National Education Association shows 82 percent of the teacher union's members who responded would not carry a gun in school. Two-thirds of educators polled said they'd feel less safe in a school with armed teachers.
DeVos aide says: "The department is constantly considering and evaluating policy issues, particularly issues related to school safety."-- Liz Hill, Education Department spokeswoman
Congressman says: "Redirecting that money to arm teachers and school staff will recklessly endanger the safety of both students and educators, while robbing under-served students of the support and opportunity they deserve." – Rep. Robert Scott, D-Va., member of the House Education Committee
Anti-gun activist says: "The voices of those who know best overwhelmingly oppose putting guns in classrooms." -- Jonathan Perloe of Connecticut Against Gun Violence
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