State Superintendent Chris Reykdal released the following statement following reports that US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was considering allowing the use of federal funds to arm teachers and school staff.
It has been reported that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is considering a federal policy change that would allow states to use federal funding provided in the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program to purchase firearms for classroom teachers.
This program provides about $15 million to Washington state school districts. It funds a variety of activities, such as expanding science and engineering beyond the school day, supporting a local Youth and Government program, and increasing mental health services. It is important for Washingtonians to understand where I and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction stand on the issue of arming classroom teachers.
I will not authorize, permit, or distribute any resources to support efforts to arm teachers. State law is clear that our schools are gun-free zones for teachers and students. The law allows exceptions for commissioned police officers on our school grounds, and for designated and trained school resource officers.
While no research indicates arming teachers improves student safety, an abundance of research clearly shows gun density is strongly correlated with higher rates of homicide and suicide. The proposed approach by Secretary DeVos to promote more guns in schools appears to be based purely on ideology, and I remain deeply troubled that the U.S. Secretary of Education would consider increasing the risk of harm and possible death to students.
Research does not show us that putting firearms in schools will make them safer. Instead, this action will undoubtedly harden our schools, create a culture of fear and imprisonment, and raise anxiety about the safety of children in schools.
Youth suicide, domestic workplace violence, and accidental deaths by firearms are on the rise. Introducing more firearms into the school environment puts our students and school employees at much greater risk of being injured or killed by gunfire.
My agency will continue our efforts to increase mental health supports for students. We are seeking additional resources for school counselors, threat assessments for students believed to be at risk of suicide or other violence, and professional development for educators to better recognize students who are in need of mental health support.
Secretary DeVos should be utilizing every resource at her disposal to reduce the number of firearms in schools and to increase resources to address our students’ growing mental health needs.
I have been in public K–12 and higher education for 28 years, and I have never seen a more destructive and dangerous policy contemplation by a U.S. Secretary of Education.
Washington state will not participate!