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Betsy DeVos says school safety commission won't focus on gun violence

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U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said a school safety commission won't study gun violence in schools. File Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo

By Danielle Haynes, UPI

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told a Senate panel Tuesday that the newly created Federal Commission on School Safety would not study gun violence in schools.

The commission, created in March, weeks after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., is headed by DeVos to provide recommendations on how to keep schools safe.

"These recommendations will include a range of issues, like social emotional support, recommendation on effective school safety infrastructure, discussion on minimum age for firearms purchases, and the impact that videogames and the media have on violence," the website for the commission says.

But DeVos downplayed how much the commission would look into firearm violence during a Senate subcommittee hearing.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked her if the body would "look at the role of firearms as it relates to gun violence in our schools."

"That is not part of the commission's charge, per se," DeVos answered.

"So, you're studying gun violence but not considering the role of guns," Leahy replied.

"We are actually studying school safety and how we can ensure our students are safe at school," DeVos responded.

Leahy asked DeVos if she thought 18-year-olds should be allowed to purchase guns like an AR-15.

"I believe that's very much a matter for debate," she said.

An Education Department spokeswoman, Liz Hill, told The New York Times that the committee is focusing its attention on the matters the president asked it to consider.

"It's important to note that the commission cannot create or amend current gun laws -- that is the Congress's job," Hill said,

Bob Farrace, a spokesman for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, called DeVos' testimony "farcical."

"But [the] NASSP hopes at least that also means no pushing for more guns in schools," he said, referencing Trump's suggestion of allowing highly trained teachers to be armed at school.

The Parkland shooting left 17 people dead Feb. 14, including 14 students. In the months since the Parkland tragedy, two more school shootings have left students injured or dead. A gunman claimed 10 lives May 18 at Santa Fe High School near Houston and on May 25, a student and teacher were injured in a shooting at an Indiana middle school.

Days after the Parkland shooting, students from the school met with President Donald Trump at the White House to call for changes to keep schools safe, prompting the leader to create the commission headed by DeVos.

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