SCHOOL SAFETY (AGAIN) TAKES CENTER STAGE: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last week offered few clues about her school safety commission’s next steps during a two-hour-plus meeting with school safety experts and survivors and family members affected by mass shootings. The Education Department on Monday released video of the meeting, which had drawn criticism because it wasn’t open to the press or public and didn’t include teachers, students or school leaders.
— DeVos, who is leading the Trump administration’s school safety commission, mostly listened. She ditched her opening remarks, saying she would rather spend time hearing from the experts. “Your knowledge, broadly shared, is going to help prevent future tragedies,” DeVos told a group of survivors and family members affected by the mass shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and Parkland.
— DeVos asked just one question of a panel of authors of official reports following incidents of school violence: What “highly valuable” changes or steps did those reports suggest that have not been made, especially at the federal level? Marisa Reddy Randazzo, the former chief research psychologist of the U.S. Secret Service, said she thinks the Education Department could issue guidance spelling out what worked well in cases where officials were able to successfully stop school shootings. “Look at ways that make it easier for students or anyone else who has a concern to bring it forward,” she said. “We could learn so much from studying how attacks have been prevented.”
— Two parents who’ve lost children in school shootings who spoke at last week’s meeting now advocate for more social and emotional learning programs in schools. They told Morning Education they felt like their views were listened to at the meeting. “Whether it’s all taken to heart and done something about, that remains to be seen,” said Darrell Scott, the father of Rachel Scott, the first student killed in 1999 at Columbine High School. He helped create a foundation called Rachel’s Challenge focused on teaching respect and kindness. Scott said with all the talk of “hardening” schools, long-term prevention programs like his that have shown success often get lost. “There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when something is working,” he said.
— Similarly, Scarlett Lewis, who lost her son, Jesse Lewis, in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary, said school shooters shared many qualities, such as lacking skills to manage their emotions and make good decisions. Lewis, who started an organization called the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement, said that’s why she thinks it’s so important that schools emphasize these type of skills. She said she would like to see the commission endorse social and emotional learning programs and advocate for schools to have the resources for them.
— A White House spokesman referred questions about the commission to the Education Department. Liz Hill, a department spokeswoman, said the agency is working closely with the White House on timing for the next meeting. She said “additional details will be forthcoming.”
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