Education

DeVos praises Parkland student activism but gives few specifics on school safety

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks during a news conference at the Marriott Heron Bay in Coral Springs after meeting with students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Wednesday, March 7, 2018.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks during a news conference at the Marriott Heron Bay in Coral Springs after meeting with students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Sun Sentinel

Following a visit to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos praised Parkland students for their activism but gave few specifics on what she thinks should be done to make schools safer.

Speaking at a press briefing in Coral Springs on Wednesday morning, DeVos said her visit to the school had been “very sobering” and “very inspiring.”

“I give a lot of credit to the students here who have found their voices and encourage them to continue to speak out about finding those solutions and having adults pay attention,” she said. “They have a lot of really important and worthwhile things to say.”

DeVos said she was committed to finding solutions “so that no student and no parent ever have to go through what this community has had to endure” but gave little indication of what those solutions might be.

The education secretary said President Donald Trump has “advanced a number of issues” that Congress has to consider, some of which she said have widespread support, and that local initiatives should also be considered.

“I think it’s appropriate to take a really robust inventory of what states are doing and what local communities are doing and elevate those things that are working well and encourage others to adopt them,” DeVos said.

One local initiative DeVos supports is allowing local governments to train and arm school personnel if they choose to do so. She praised an initiative in Polk County as a “great example” of a program in which school personnel who choose to carry firearms are highly trained.

“I think that’s a model that can be adopted and should be an option for schools, for states, for communities. But it’s certainly not one that needs to be required or mandated for every community,” she said.

The program initiated by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd allows members of a school’s staff to get 132 hours of training and a psychological evaluation to become deputized as a law enforcement official. The program is intended to allow them to carry concealed weapons on campus to respond to an active shooter.

DeVos said she did not discuss the idea of arming school staff with students at Stoneman Douglas High. Pressed on which concrete proposals she would support to make schools safer, DeVos said, “We’ll have more on that in the future” and walked away from the microphone.

Kyra Gurney: 305-376-3205, @KyraGurney

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