Betsy DeVos: Congress Must Tackle Mental Health Issues in Schools

Betsy DeVos
Jacquelyn Martin/AP

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told radio show host Hugh Hewitt that Congress must address mental health issues in schools in order to prevent another deadly mass shooting like the one in Florida on Wednesday.

Hewitt asked DeVos:

Secretary DeVos, we have a no-fly list in this country. Ought we not to have a no-buy list for students who are obviously troubled, have been expelled, are in mental health programs and who post YouTube videos of the sort that this kid did? Don’t we need a superintendent to be able to go to a police chief and say this kid can’t have a gun?

The secretary responded:

[T]here have, apparently were lots of signs. And 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, because it’s clear that, it seems to be clear that this young man put up lots and lots of signals and warning signs.

Hewitt asked whether the department of education should use its “spending authority” to incentivize school districts to develop systems in which they work with local law enforcement to observe someone who is believed to be a threat.

DeVos replied that while such an idea “would be a very important part of the conversation,” she would ultimately like to see Congress hold hearings on the issues.

She continued:

And we’ve seen lots of discussion about this every time we’ve had another incident, we’ve seen you know, lots of finger pointing back and forth. But we need to have a conversation at the level where lawmakers can actually impact the future, because going back to and putting myself in the seat of one of those families impacted, you know, one of these shootings is one too many. And we have got to have an honest conversation, and Congress has to lead on this. It’s their job.

Asked by Hewitt if the education department would consider withholding funding from school districts that do not hire military officers “who are credentialed at the federal level,” DeVos replied the question “lends itself to a broader conversation around the notion that too many kids today are really stuck in schools that are not working for them.”

The secretary, who has made school choice a primary goal, said, “[W]e need the kind of freedom in education that is going to allow parents to find schools that fit their child’s learning styles, their personality, and bring about a lot more creativity in how we actually help kids learn and get educated.”

Alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz, 19, was a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who had been expelled. He has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder after a shooting spree at the school. In addition to the 17 confirmed dead, 15 are reported hospitalized.


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