- A group of education and advocacy groups — including the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence — are suing the U.S. Department of Education for more information on its decision to allow the use of federal funds to arm teachers, The Huffington Post reported.
- In August and September, the organizations filed two Freedom of Information Act requests to get more information surrounding the decision, like whether pro-gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) had any degree of influence, or which school districts were interested in using federal funding to arm teachers, HuffPost reported. They say the department hasn't released records in a timely manner.
- The lawsuit filed by Democracy Forward — a nonprofit that focuses on the executive branch's actions — says the government has failed to meet its legal requirement. Under the law, federal agencies have to respond to FOIA requests within 20 business days unless there are "unusual circumstances," according to the Justice Department.
This lawsuit, which HuffPost said would be filed Wednesday morning, is the latest development in the ongoing conflict surrounding arming teachers with federal money. In August, it surfaced that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was considering allowing states and school districts to use grant money under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) — more specifically, they'd be purchased under the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants — to arm teachers, which drew widespread criticism and outrage from gun control groups nationwide. Shortly after, it was reported that the idea didn't come from DeVos, but instead from a Texas Education Agency letter that asked if it would be possible.
For a long time, the government had maintained the stance that it wouldn't fund school weapons. School shootings weren't part of discussions surrounding ESSA's passage in 2015, but what was included was a long list of priorities for schools to address: more mental health resources, better resources, more early-childhood education programs, etc. But at this point, it's anyone's guess where things stand. DeVos has said she wouldn't get of the way of states that want to use the money this way, but she's also said she wouldn’t reach a verdict without advice from Congress, which likely won't reach a compromise anytime soon.
The Trump administration is also known to be more difficult with responding to FOIA requests. Last year, it censored, withheld or said it couldn't locate requested records more often than any other time in the past decade, according to an Associated Press analysis. As a result, these teachers and advocacy groups are taking things into their own hands, supporting the idea that, as an educator, it's still important to be involved in policy that could affect the field and choosing causes to advocate for in the best interest of students and schools.
Additionally, using federal money to address some of the persisting problems in educating students should arguably be considered before that funding is spent on weapons. And if the money does end up going toward getting stronger security measures, tactics like better school design, more school resource officers and more mental health counselors have been proven to be more favorable to many — including participants in DeVos' Federal Commission on School Safety.