Parkland parents call for unity as Trump doubles down on arming schools

President Donald Trump doubled down on recommendations to arm school personnel to stop mass shootings as students and parents from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., site of a Valentine’s Day shooting, called for Americans to focus on steps they can agree on instead of political differences.

The recommendation — along with others that call for expanded mental health services and a campaign for less media coverage of shooters — came in a new federal report Trump presented at a White House meeting with surviving students and parents of school shootings Tuesday.

“There is so much to like here,” said Ryan Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter, Alaina Petty, was one of the 17 people killed in the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland. “My hope is that rather than fighting over the things that you don’t like or you think are missing that the nation will come together and focus on the things we do agree on.”

The Trump administration’s School Safety Commission, created in the wake of the Parkland School shooting earlier this year, released the final report with nearly 100 recommendations for addressing school violence.

In the 177-page report, officials urged adopting “extreme risk protection orders” by removing firearms from individuals considered a danger to themselves and others, but stopped short of raising minimum-age requirements for purchasing firearms.

The commission, led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, discounted the role of guns in school violence, but recommends that school districts work with law enforcement to establish a method to have “highly-trained individuals” on campus with weapons. It also suggests ending Obama-era guidance not to punish minority students at higher rates.

“Nothing is more important than protecting our nation’s children,” Trump said.

Trump officials described the report as a “holistic approach” to improving school safety by increasing security of the building while building up social and emotional resources for students. Many of the recommendations have already been put in place in local communities officials said.

It also suggests ending Obama-era guidance not to punish minority students at higher rates. The commission said the 2014 guidance intended to combat discrimination actually made schools less safe by discouraging schools from punishing more unruly students.

The report didn’t specifically call for arming teachers, but noted that was an option that school systems should consider along with arming other administrators and increasing school resource officers.

“Placement of specially trained personnel in schools is an effective tool in stopping acts of school violence,” the report said noting an Illinois case where a school resource officer stopped a gunman targeting a high school graduation rehearsal before anyone was hurt.

Acknowledging there can be “no one-size-fits-all solution,” officials said was more of a resource guidance to use as they consider the best ways to stop or recover violence in schools.

Gun control advocates opposed DeVos’s report.

“It’s time for Secretary DeVos and President Trump to recognize the importance of passing laws proven to make it harder for dangerous people to ever get a gun and cause others harm,” said Robin Lloyd with Giffords, a group formed by ex-Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot 10 years ago.

Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was among those killed in the Parkland shooting, praised the administration for “listening to all the facts” and putting together what he called the “most comprehensive report by any administration on a school shooting.”

It was a much more sober moment for Pollack who earlier this year, flanked by his sons, was visibly angry recounting the impacts his daughter’s death had on his family.

“We as a country failed our children,” Pollack said at the time, recounting how hard it was to get on a plane with a bottle of water, but easy for a heavily armed man to enter a school and start shooting children.

As the report notes, “Implementation of the practices identified in this guide is purely voluntary, and no federal agency will take any action against schools that do not adopt them.” But Carson Abt, a student who survived the shooting, said it was now up to the states and schools to act on the recommendations the commission made.

Abt said her her school life is now filled with more safety drills in case of of another school shooting. She called it unfortunate, but hoped that the additional training would help save lives in the future.

She said it was now up to the states and schools to act on the recommendations the commission made.

Trump said he was also rolling out a new federal regulation that bans the bump-stock devices that allowed a gunman in Las Vegas to spray an outdoor concert with bullets and killing 58 people.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House correspondent for the McClatchy Washington Bureau with a focus on immigration and foreign affairs. He previously covered Latin American affairs for the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. He moved to Washington in 2011 after six years at the Charlotte Observer covering immigration and working on investigative projects for The Charlotte Observer.