Trump's school safety commission to hold first meeting behind closed doors

President Donald Trump's school safety commission will hold its first meeting on Wednesday, days after young activist...

Posted: Mar 28, 2018 4:59 PM
Updated: Mar 28, 2018 4:59 PM

President Donald Trump's school safety commission will hold its first meeting on Wednesday, days after young activists took to the streets to demand reforms to the nation's gun laws.

The meeting will not be open to the public or the press.

The commission, formed after the Parkland, Florida, shooting in which 17 people were killed at a high school, is led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, joined by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

An Education Department spokesperson said the meeting was "organizational" to determine staffing, scheduling and other details. The spokesperson said that in the future, the commission planned to travel the country to hold public-facing meetings to include the input of parents, teachers, students and other stakeholders.

Sessions is expected to attend, a person familiar with plans for the meeting said.

The commission is expected to consider a number of issues related to school safety, including considering whether to ban gun sales for people under 21, the potential repeal of Obama-era guidelines on school discipline and whether video games contribute to youth violence.

When pressed about why the commission would include only Cabinet officials, and not parents and teachers, DeVos told lawmakers during a House appropriations subcommittee hearing earlier this month that, "this is an urgent matter and we want to ensure that we're able to move and operate as quickly as possible and without getting bogged down by a lot of bureaucracy."

Ahead of its first meeting, the commission has drawn criticism from teachers unions who say their input hasn't been solicited and a key lawmaker on education issues.

Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate's education panel, met with DeVos earlier in the month and said she was "troubled and disappointed" by DeVos' lack of specificity and detail.

In a letter, Murray asked for DeVos to release more information about how the committee will work, including how members will be selected, the scope of the work and how it will present its findings. Her office said they have not yet received a reply.

Teachers unions also say critical voices have so far been left out.

The commission has "purposefully excludes the voices of students, educators and parents," Lily Eskelsen Garc-a, the president of the National Education Association, the nation's largest labor union, said.

"Given the previous actions of DeVos, we're not surprised that today's meeting is closed to the media and happening away from the eyes of the public," she said. "The commission's clear purpose is to push an agenda that is focused on a dangerous and misguided plan to put more guns in schools by arming teachers and other school personnel."

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