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Napolitano & 172 Democrats Demand Secretary DeVos Issue Formal Guidance Prohibiting the Use of Federal Education Funding to Purchase Firearms

August 28, 2018
Press Release

(WASHINGTON, DC) Today, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-El Monte) joined more than 170 of her House Democratic colleagues in sending a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos calling on the Department to issue formal guidance prohibiting the use of federal education funding to buy guns for teachers and school staff. The letter comes in the wake of a New York Times report revealing the administration’s consideration of a proposal that would allow schools to redirect federal K-12 education funding, for services like mental health counseling, for the purchase of firearms or firearms training.

“Students, parents, and school leaders across the country are calling out, demanding action to prevent gun violence and keep our communities safe, yet President Trump and Secretary DeVos only hear the voices of the NRA and gun manufacturers,” Napolitano said. “Diverting funds authorized for mental health, anti-bullying, and other school improvement initiatives to buy guns is ludicrous and dangerous. Teachers, administrators, board members, and other school personnel all agree we need more mental health services, not fewer. We have seen the positive impact of having on-site clinicians in nearly 30 schools here in LA County, who are providing culturally and linguistically appropriate services in a stigma-free environment. Comprehensive mental health and crisis counseling services must always be made available to those in need, including in the aftermath of tragedies. Democrats will reject any effort to bring guns into our schools, and we call on Secretary DeVos to clarify that it is prohibited to use federal funds to carry out such an absurd plan.”

According to press reports, the proposal under review would allow Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants authorized under Title IV-A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to be used to arm teachers and other school staff. Title IV-A is a program with bipartisan support that is intended to improve school climate in high-needs schools through a wide range of approaches. Grants can be used for efforts such as expanding students’ access to mental health services, supporting drug prevention and anti-bullying campaigns, improving access to arts and STEM curriculum, and increasing the availability of cutting edge technology to support student learning.

“Title IV-A affords local leaders the flexibility to tailor investments to meet local needs; however, in writing and enacting ESSA, Congress never contemplated, and thus never intended, that such flexibility would allow for the procurement of firearms,” the members wrote.“Any use of funds to purchase weapons not only violates intent, but it also clearly contradicts the plain reading of the statute.”

The text of Title IV-A of ESSA, which was signed into law in 2015, specifically promotes activities that support “a school environment free of weapons.”

The letter makes clear that, even without further action by Congress, Secretary DeVos must adhere to federal law and honor the intent of Congress. Napolitano and her colleagues are asking Secretary DeVos for written confirmation, by the end of this week, of the Department’s intent to issue formal guidance prohibiting the use of federal education funding for the purchase of guns.

The full text of the letter is available here.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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