WASHINGTON – Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is considering allowing states to use federal grant money to buy guns for schools, people familiar with the matter said.
Two people said the question has been raised inside the department as to whether states are allowed to use money available through Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants to buy firearms. Unlike other federal grants, this one does not expressly prohibit such purchases.
Allowing schools to use federal money to buy firearms would fuel anger among those who say the response to school shootings should be fewer guns, not more. But it could find support among gun rights advocates who say that having firearms in schools would make them less likely to be targeted.
"The department is constantly considering and evaluating policy issues, particularly issues related to school safety," said Education Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Hill.
The policy consideration was first reported by the New York Times. The conversation was sparked because the federal law that created the grants includes few constraints, people familiar with the matter said. The person said it is possible DeVos would not expressly permit it nor advise against it.
The grant program at issue is meant to be a flexible funding source for states to improve academic achievement. It was not created with school safety or firearms in mind, but it does not explicitly prohibit use of grant money for guns.
JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said using the grant funds — called Title IV — for firearms is "a perverse distortion of Title IV's goal of enhancing student learning."
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., posted on Twitter, "Devos, after my daughter was murdered, you yelled 'Don't talk about guns, talk about mental health.' Your brain dead plan will pull money from mental health."
David Thweatt, the superintendent of Harrold Independent School District in Texas, said he supports schools using federal funds to buy firearms. "You have to make children feel secure," he said. "If they're constantly looking over their shoulder, they're not learning."