You'd be hard-pressed to find much praise for today's Department of Education, but they're still managing to come up with new and appalling ways to alienate the public. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Trump administration is allegedly reporting false data on school shootings.
Update: In a statement provided to Romper, DOE Press Secretary Liz Hill said as of mid-September, "at least five districts" have alerted the Department that their school shooting statistics were reported inaccurately, but the deadline for corrections has already passed, and the Office for Civil Rights "does not plan to republish the Issue Briefs."
Considering who's running the show at America's schools these days, this could have some very serious consequences. That person would be one Betsy DeVos, a billionaire with allegedly no experience or training in education, whose stated mission is "to help advance God’s Kingdom" by diverting tax dollars to churches, which she feels have been wrongly "displaced" by public schools.
Over the past two decades, DeVos' lobbying — and bank account — helped turn the Michigan school system into a for-profit charter school haven, leaving underfunded public schools as some of worst in the nation. She was, to put it mildly, not very well-received in her new role. On the one-year anniversary of the day DeVos took office, she received "report cards" from over 80,000 teachers giving her straight Fs, according to USA Today. Last month, two of the largest teachers unions in the nation unequivocally labeled her "the worst education secretary in history," the Washington Post reported. Days later, an anonymous patriot untied her yacht from a dock in Lake Erie, causing a scrape that will cost her an estimated $5,000 to $10,000 to repair.
Potentially bankrupting the public education system is enough of a reason to dislike DeVos, but there's more. So much more! As soon as she took office, she began rescinding Obama-era guidance protecting transgender students and sexual assault victims, for starters. While the previous administration advised schools that barring transgender students from public school bathrooms is a form of sex discrimination, which is prohibited under Title IX, DeVos allegedly wants individual schools to decide whether or not it's appropriate to violate kids' rights. And while colleges and universities could once rely on the preponderance of evidence in order to determine whether a student accused of sexual assault should be disciplined or expelled, DeVos thinks that's not a good enough reason to believe victims, according to The New York Times.
While DeVos is just chock-full of unpopular opinions, her position on keeping kids safe from murder while at school is possibly the most flabbergasting of them all. You may recall her hotly contested confirmation hearing in early 2017, during which Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy (who represents the families of the Sandy Hook victims) asked her if guns had any place in or around schools. She replied that she thought the issue was "best left to locales and states to decide," according to NBC News. When pressed further, her bewildering response was, "I think probably there, I would imagine that there's probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies."
Following February's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Trump administration convened a federal commission on school safety, which is led by DeVos. This past June, she told Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy that her commission had no plans to evaluate the role that guns play in school gun violence, according to Newsweek. Read that again, because guns are, at the very least, one-third of what "school gun violence" is made of. "That is not part of the commission's charge per se," she explained to a Senate subcommittee on spending. Rather, the focus is "how we can ensure our students are safe at school." Safe from what, exactly? Are we back on bears again?
The issue, presumably, is that if DeVos' commission admits that guns are hindrance to students' safety, then it would be hard to argue in favor of her alleged plan to allow states to use federal funding to arm their teachers, as the Times reported last week. Better, perhaps, to paint public schools as war zones, where the only option is to send in armed forces. This might explain why the Office for Civil Rights' School Climate and Safety Issue Brief states that nearly 240 schools reported a shooting during 2015-2016 school year (and implies that each may have experienced more than one), while Everytown for Gun Safety, which has been tracking school shootings since 2013, recorded only 25 total incidents for the same period. The ACLU has been fact-checking these figures by contacting each of the schools, and thus far, has identified 138 erroneous reports, with only 11 confirmed shootings. This isn't to say that school shootings aren't a problem; obviously and unfortunately they are. But the solution isn't more guns, no matter how much the facts might get twisted.