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Trump made a list of promises to protect schools. Here are the ones he kept

Reuters/Carlos Barria
Trump speaks at the NRA convention earlier this month.
Published This article is more than 2 years old.

After seventeen died in a February school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the White House issued a list of ways in which it promised to “secure our schools.”

The list, released March 12, promised “immediate action” on gun safety in schools. But it actually walked back some of the promises that Donald Trump made after an emotional earlier meeting with Parkland survivors. It didn’t raise the minimum age for assault rifle purchases, though it called for a commission to “make recommendations.” It did not include universal background checks, or any provision to immediately take guns from troubled people.

Of what did make the list, little has been checked off, according to educators, gun safety advocates, and public information from the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Education. Today, three months later, another 10 Americans, including nine high school students, were shot and killed in Santa Fe, Texas. Their killer: a fellow student armed with a .38 caliber handgun and his father’s rifle.

Below, read the full text of the White House’s list of promises to secure schools. The status of each promise is color-coded: Promises that are color-coded red mean no action has been taken to fulfill the promise. (So are promises where there has been no public update, and the responsible agency did not respond to a request for update.)  Promises color-coded in blue have seen initial steps toward fulfillment, but remain unfulfilled. Promises color-coded in green have been fulfilled. 

The distribution of reds, blues, and greens shows that the Trump administration has been largely inactive. Promises that could be implemented through federal agencies are unfulfilled, aside from the superficial step of establishing a commission “to address school safety.” The most ambitious measures, meanwhile, came from congressional legislation introduced before the Parkland shooting.

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HARDENING OUR SCHOOLS: President Donald J. Trump is making sure our schools are safe and secure, just like our airports, stadiums, and government buildings.

President Trump’s Administration will assist States to train specially qualified school personnel on a voluntary basis.

• Department of Justice (DOJ) assistance programs will be leveraged to enable schools to partner with State and local law enforcement to provide firearms training for school personnel.1

Florida has passed legislation to train school personnel to carry guns and a handful of other states have legislation pending, but there's been little sign the Department of Justice is involved.

• The Administration will support the transition of military veterans and retired law enforcement into new careers in education.

• The Administration will encourage States’ Attorneys General to audit school district compliance with State emergency preparedness activities.

• Federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, will partner with States and localities to support a public awareness campaign modeled on “See Something, Say Something” to encourage awareness and reporting of suspicious activity.2

The DHS's "See Something" campaign predates the Trump administration; there is a meeting planned in Dallas on May 21 to discuss the program.

STRENGTHENING BACKGROUND CHECKS AND PREVENTION: President Trump supports legislation and reforms to strengthen background checks and law enforcement operations.

• President Trump’s Administration is calling on every State to adopt Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs). 3

“We have not seen the president or this administration do anything to promote or incentivize or assist states to pass these laws,” said Robin Lloyd, director of government affairs at Giffords, the gun violence prevention group. Florida, Vermont, and Maryland have passed ERPO laws since the Parkland shooting. There are two bipartisan bills in Congress to pass ERPO laws nationwide, Lloyd said, but Trump has not thrown his support behind either one, and they haven’t been brought to a vote.

• The President is directing the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance to States, at their request, on establishing and implementing ERPOs.

• ERPOs allow law enforcement, with approval from a court, to remove firearms from individuals who are a demonstrated threat to themselves or others and temporarily to prevent individuals from purchasing new firearms.

• ERPOs should be carefully tailored to ensure the due process rights of law-abiding citizens are protected.

• President Trump supports improving the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The President supports the legislative framework introduced by Senators Cornyn and Murphy that will help improve the accuracy and effectiveness of NICS.

• The Cornyn-Murphy bill will hold Federal agencies more accountable for reporting information to NICS and will incentivize States to improve their reporting to the system. 4

This Cornyn-Murphy bill, known as the Fix NICS act was signed into law on March 23, after it was attached to the omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government through the fall. The bill, which penalizes federal agencies that don't report dangerous behavior to the system, had 75 Senate sponsors. The White House had little impact on it passing, gun safety advocates say.

• The President supports the framework of the STOP School Violence Act, which provides for State-based grants to implement evidence-based violence prevention programs.

• Grants will provide States with funds for training, technology, and technical assistance to help schools identify and prevent violent acts. 5

The Stop Violence Act also passed with the Omnibus spending bill.

• The Administration requests that Congress provide funding in 2018 to jump start implementation of this evidence-based program in middle and high schools nationwide.

• The President’s Administration will audit and make accountability improvements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) tip line, and will promote its use.

• DOJ will provide emergency and crisis training for local law enforcement.

MENTAL HEALTH REFORM: President Trump is proposing an expansion and reform of mental health programs, including those that help identify and treat individuals who may be a threat to themselves or others.

• The President is proposing increased integration of mental health, primary care, and family services, as well as support for programs that utilize court-ordered treatment.

• The President is calling for a review of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and other statutory and regulatory privacy protections.

• Reviews will determine if any changes or clarifications are needed to improve coordination between mental health and other healthcare professionals, school officials, and law enforcement personnel.

INVESTIGATION: In addition to these immediate actions, President Trump is establishing a Federal Commission on School Safety chaired by Secretary Betsy DeVos and will recommend policy and funding proposals for school violence prevention. 

• President Trump’s Administration will establish a Federal commission, chaired by Secretary DeVos, to address school safety and the culture of violence.

• While the Administration is taking immediate action on school safety, the Federal commission will develop a process to evaluate and make recommendations on school safety. 6

The commission was established on March 23. It held its first meeting on March 28. It was blasted by the National Education Association, which represents the US's 3 million public school employees, because it met "behind closed doors at the White House without students, teachers or parents at the table and away from the public’s scrutiny." The Department of Education didn't respond to phone calls and emails asking for an update.

• The commission will study and make recommendations on areas of focus. 7

The commission is meant to discuss everything from age restrictions for some firearms, to video games, mental health treatment, how press coverage affects shootings, and even the effect of psychotropic medication on troubled youth.

Overall, the administration has fulfilled just two of its main promises, both of which were primarily led by members of Congress: Supporting the Cornyn-Murphy bill and the Stop School Violence act.

On Friday, after the Texas shooting, Trump said school shootings have been “going on too long,” and education secretary Betsy DeVos said “we simply cannot allow this trend to continue.” Neither, though, said they’d do the one thing that’s been proven to stop mass shootings in other countries: tighten laws about who can access guns and ammunition.

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