State Superintendent Torlakson Criticizes Safety Commission for Ignoring Gun Control, Seeking to Eliminate Policy to Make School Discipline More Fair

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson issued the following statement today on the report of the federal School Safety Commission. The commission was put together as a response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School in Florida on February 14, 2018, which took the lives of 14 students and three teachers, while injuring dozens of others.

“I am extremely disappointed that the School Safety Commission report contains a misguided recommendation to eliminate a policy that has nothing to do with the continuing tragedy of school shootings—the quest for disciplining students in a proportionate, fair manner. At the same time it ignores one of the key contributors to school shootings —easy access to military-style assault weapons.

I strongly oppose this recommendation and the Department of Education’s reported plans to rescind the Obama administration’s guidance encouraging schools to work to reduce the disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates for students of color and students with disabilities that are found throughout our nation.

As part of its commitment to the fair treatment of all students, California encourages districts to reduce or eliminate disparities in discipline given out to student groups. The California School Dashboard reveals the suspension rates of all student groups, supplying the data needed to take action to ensure equity for all students.

I am disappointed the commission was nearly silent on gun control. Earlier this year, I joined with 63 California Teachers of the Year in calling for sensible gun control measures, such as strengthening background checks and eliminating the sale of military-style assault weapons. Sales of these weapons put our students and educators at risk.

I am encouraged by the commission’s recommendation to expand the ability of law enforcement agencies to temporarily restrict access to firearms for those judged to be a danger to themselves and others.

California already has such a law, known as a gun violence restraining order or a Red Flag law. It allows immediate family members and police to ask a judge to remove guns and ammunition from a family member they believe poses a threat. I urge other states to pass similar laws.”

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