U.S. Dept. of Education considers arming teachers, Oceanside responds


The U.S. Department of Education may give states the option to use federal funds to purchase guns, and local officials have said they are not happy.

According to an article published by The New York Times, the Department is looking into the option of allowing public school districts to tap into government grants to purchase firearms and train their staff on how to use them. There is a loophole in the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 and nowhere does it stipulate that state moneys cannot be used to purchase weapons, and that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is aware.

As a result, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, a $1 billion supply that is intended for struggling schools across the nation, could be used for the purchase of guns. The Times reported the Department determined such transactions fall under one of the goals of the program: “improving school conditions,” which also includes increasing access to mental health counseling and improving re-entry programs for students transferring into schools from the juvenile justice system.

The nationwide debate over guns on school grounds, sparked not only at the local level but also the national level after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. on Feb. 14, which left 17 people dead and another 17 injured.

“The safety and security of our students and staff is among the highest priorities of the Oceanside School District,” Oceanside Schools Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Harrington responded through a statement, adding that improved security measures at Oceanside schools, such monitors outside each elementary school are being implemented.

She concluded, “I personally and professionally would not be in support of arming teachers.”

And responding for a request for comment regarding the issue in an Oceanside Facebook group, multiple users vouched for having armed security guards at schools, but not for arming teachers.

“We can make every school a fortress but without threat assessment teams, education of staff and students on the warning signs and reporting mechanisms for people to express their concerns, we are pissing in the wind, “ Eric John said. “Prevention has to start before an attempted shooting incident.”

Dina Person, who said she works as a teacher, wrote, “I have enough to do that carrying a weapon too is ridiculous.”

Last week, in response to the article, Senator Todd Kaminsky released a statement on the development saying, “We owe it to our children and teachers to keep our schools safe, and supply them with adequate resources to ensure they receive the best education possible. DeVos’ asinine proposal to use our tax dollars to arm teachers accomplishes none of these objectives.”

He added that he believes having more educational materials to schools, reinforcing buildings infrastructure and technology and bettering support programs for children are better uses of federal funds than “forcing” teachers to “double as security guards.”

Kaminsky wrote to State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia urging her to prohibit school districts in New York from using such moneys to arm educators.

Additionally, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran also spoke out against using the grant money for buying firearms and training teachers to use them. In a statement, she commended the work of the Nassau County Police Department as well as its efforts towards implementing the School Resource Program and RAVE application in each school district, programs which are intended to increase coordination and communication with school districts during an active shooter event.

“Both initiatives greatly reduce response times in the event of an incident, and together increase student safety through effective training and real-time communication to first responders,” Curran said. “Every penny of federal grants should go towards our children’s educational enrichment, not towards bringing firearms into their classrooms.”