In response to the Parkland, Florida, shooting in March, President Donald Trump appointed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to lead a Federal Commission on School Safety. The commission, comprised of other cabinet members, was tasked with engaging a variety of stakeholder groups — teachers, parents, administrators and law enforcement — and ultimately providing actionable recommendations for districts and school systems. A series of meetings and roundtables was held in Washington, D.C., and in local communities and focused on different aspects of school safety, including the prevention of school violence, the protection of students and teachers, and the mitigation of threats of school violence.   

In a 177-page report (see the attachment below) released Dec. 18, the commission calls for the rescission of Obama-issued school discipline guidance and provides 93 best practices and policy recommendations for improving safety at schools across the country. The report refrains from proposals of new federal guidance, saying there is no one-size-fits-all approach to prevent school violence and keep students safe. Instead, it encourages states and local districts to adopt proven policies on mental health treatment and school building security.

The Obama-issued school discipline guidance put districts on notice that they could be in violation of federal civil rights laws if students of color are suspended, expelled or otherwise disciplined at higher rates than white students. DeVos and other conservatives viewed this guidance as an example of federal overreach and a possible influence in the school shooting. Democrats are sure to contest the retraction as a violation of civil rights laws that require schools to administer student discipline without discriminating on the base of race, color, or national origin.

After prodding, the commission extended the conversation to include provisions on guns in schools, but it did not recommend any new gun restrictions.