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Trump Team Sued for Not Releasing Records on Using Federal Money to Arm Teachers

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Three advocacy organizations—Democracy Forward, the American Federation of Teachers, and the Southern Poverty Law Center—are suing the Trump administration for failing to release records pertaining to its position on whether the Every Student Succeeds Act allows school districts to use federal funds to purchase firearms or train teachers to use them.

The organizations noted that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her team have said they began mulling the issue after receiving requests for information from states and school districts, including in Oklahoma. But they haven't made all the information about those requests public, despite two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed by the groups.

The first FOIA request, filed Aug. 27, sought records detailing the role the National Rifle Association and other gun rights lobbying group may have played in the Trump administration's decision on the issue. DeVos has said the law allows districts to use money from a flexible ESSA block grant to buy guns, although she will not issue any additional guidance on the matter. The second FOIA request, filed Sept. 11, asked for information about which school districts wanted to arm teachers using federal funds. So far, the department hasn't complied with either request. (The department has 20 days to respond to FOIA requests, according to its website).

"The Department of Education continues to try to flood schools with guns, pretending that educators, administrators, school districts and parents want schools turned into armed fortresses, and that there is evidence that this will make schools safer—but they're refusing to produce any information, much less evidence, that backs up those false claims," said Randi Weingarten, AFT's president, in a statement. "Meanwhile, I've heard from teachers around the country—many of them gun owners—who tell me that bringing guns into the classroom makes them less safe, not more. It's time Betsy DeVos started standing up for kids and teachers, not the NRA,"

An Education Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

Photo: Swikar Patel for Education Week

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