Schools 'have option to arm teachers', says US education secretary

'I think this needs to be part of the broader, more robust conversation about how can we avoid these things,' says Betsy DeVos

Jon Sharman
Friday 16 February 2018 19:54 GMT
US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos
US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos

The US education secretary said schools have the “option” of arming teachers but refused to be drawn on whether she personally believed it was a good idea.

Speaking after 14 pupils and three staff members were killed in a Florida high school, Betsy DeVos said individual states and cities needed to decide for themselves whether teachers should be trained in the use of guns.

“I think this is an important issue for all states to grapple with and to tackle," she told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. "They clearly have the opportunity and the option to do that, and there are differences in how states approach this.

“I think this needs to be part of the broader, more robust conversation about how can we avoid these things in the future, and how can we ensure that when my child, your child, goes to school in the morning they’re going to go to a safe and nurturing environment, and they’re going to be able to pursue their learning in a way that is going to excite and energise them.”

Pressed further on whether she personally supported arming teachers if they were stringently vetted and rigorously trained, Ms DeVos she said: “I think that is a question and issue for communities to wrestle with, and I’ve seen approaches in different cities done different ways.

“It is one that has to happen at the local level and at the state level. Communities need to share best practices and results from the steps that they take to ensure that kids have a safe environment in which to learn.”

She added that she was “heartbroken” by Wednesday’s slaughter and that “there have been far too many of these situations”.

Nikolas Cruz has been charged with 17 counts of murder at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the city of Parkland.

An arrest affidavit released by Broward County Sheriff’s Office stated that the 19-year-old former pupil, had "confessed" to the murders, after his arrest.

Ms DeVos told Mr Hewitt that Cruz had “put up lots and lots of signals and warning signs” ahead of the attack.

She said: “I think it’s critically important that we have a much more robust conversation around tracking and tackling mental health issues and really bringing this all together.

“Congress needs to be holding hearings on these issues. We’ve seen lots of discussion about this every time we’ve had another incident, we’ve seen lots of finger-pointing back and forth. But we need to have a conversation at the level where lawmakers can actually impact the future.”

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