An open letter to Betsy DeVos

Staff Writer Kate Wehlann

Dear Betsy,

Can I call you Betsy? I mean, let’s face it, in the unlikely event this letter makes it to your office, it probably won’t make it through your staff to you, so I suppose I can call you by your first name whether you like it or not because you won’t see it anyway. Even if you do see this, as I’m a tax-paying citizen of the United States, you basically work for me. I suppose you’d still like to be considered a public servant, so I feel like first name-usage is a card I can play.

Among your many duties as Secretary of Education, you chair the School Safety Commission, which, according to the fact sheet about the commission, studies and makes recommendations on a range of areas, including age restrictions for certain firearm purchases. This makes sense because, among the leading causes of preventable death and injuries in schools, one of the big ones happens to be bullets.

However, you’ve said before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee meeting recently, when asked by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), that your commission isn’t going to look into firearms.

“That is not part of the commission’s charge per se,” you told Leahy.

“I see,” Leahy said. “So, you’re studying gun violence but not considering the role of guns.”

“We’re actually [studying] student school safety and how we can ensure our students are safe at school,” you replied.

Correct me if I and all the news sources I’ve seen, including FOX, are wrong, but this sounds like you’re basically saying guns that have killed dozens of kids in schools this year alone aren’t your commission’s problem, but that safety in schools (i.e. kids being safe from bullets in class) is. This doesn’t make sense, Betz. This commission was formed in response to the Parkland, Florida shooting in February. The impetus for this whole commission was guns in schools. I would think that studying how to keep firearms from ending up on school property would be a priority.

To be clear, I’m not expecting you to create or ammend current laws. That’s a job for Congress. You’d have had to get real votes from the American public instead of just senators you gave money to or who were blindly following their presidential candidate’s picks if you wanted to do that. I’m not even asking you to solve problems. I’m just wondering how you, the head of a school safety commission can say you aren’t going to study firearms’ role in the deaths of children in a place they should be safe and consider potential suggestions for changes to gun laws that could make schools safer. Because, so far, guns have killed more children in school than the bears you said armed teachers could protect them from. I haven’t heard of a single death from a bear attack in school this year, but a tragic number of children and a few of their teachers are in coffins in the ground right now as a result of bullet wounds inflicted on school property.

It’s time something was done about that and I think that something should start with the Chair of the School Safety Commission.

Kate Wehlann

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