Education Secretary Betsy DeVos won’t be around Wednesday to attend the first public “listening session” hosted by the new federal school safety commission, which she chairs.
She’s in Switzerland.
According to a release from her department, DeVos is on a “multi-stop learning tour” to Zurich, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom to learn about apprenticeship programs, among other things.
Wednesday’s all-day session at the Education Department headquarters in Washington is the new School Safety Commission’s first public forum, and an opportunity for stakeholders in the issue of school safety, like teachers organizations and mental health experts, to share their recommendations. Gun control advocates were notably excluded.
The Commission has four members: DeVos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar III. But none of the other three will be there either; they’re all sending deputies in their place.
“We don’t doubt the legitimacy of the trip to Europe,” said Bob Farrace, director of public affairs at the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “But it is odd, and perhaps a bit disrespectful, that the secretary would plan a public listening session on a day she knew she would be leaving the country. The absence of all four commissioners signals that this commission’s school safety work is simply not a priority for this administration.”
The School Safety Commission was formed by presidential order March 12 about a month after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 people dead.
The Commission has been criticized for its apparent lack of progress in the nearly three months since it was convened, and DeVos has been accused of not taking its mission seriously enough.