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Bevin Blames Phones, Video Games, Medication For School Shootings

Ryland Barton

Gov. Matt Bevin says in order to put an end to school shootings, parents need to stop over-medicating their children and steer them away from cell phones and violent video games.

The governor’s comments came during a listening session hosted by the Federal Commission on School Safety, which was created by President Trump earlier this year.

“We are arming children with a device that has been proven time and time again — there’s not a single study that refutes or flies in the face of the fact that this leads to greater self-doubt, greater depression, greater ideas of self-harm,” Bevin said.

He also criticized media coverage of school shootings.

“The media has a direct responsibility here,” Bevin said during the meeting. “Yes, it may help you celebrate a few extra eyes and views and clicks, but at what price and at what cost?”

Trump created the commission after the fatal shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in February. The Parkland shooting took place two weeks after two students died during a shooting at Marshall County High School in western Kentucky in January.

Bevin has repeatedly said he doesn’t support any new gun restrictions, instead saying that parents need to direct children away from violent content in video games, music, movies and social media.

“As a nation we want so quickly to find some solution, something we do or stop doing that fixes this,” Bevin said Tuesday. “But culturally, we are feeding this epidemic.”

Tonnette Walker, first lady of Wisconsin, also attended the meeting. She disagreed sharply with Bevin’s critique, saying that schools need to reach out to children affected by abuse, neglect and trauma.

“I am going to disagree with you on that phone thing,” Walker said. “I think the phone is a problem, I think it’s a huge problem, and if we could take it away I’d take it away. But the root of the problem is adverse childhood experiences.”

The commission held a roundtable discussion in Lexington on Tuesday to hear recommendations about how to make schools safer.

Officials did not discuss gun control measures or the possibility of any federal action on school safety.

Before the meeting began, Deputy Education Secretary Mick Zais said that the commission would create a report of best practices for local governments, saying that “ultimately school safety is a local issue.”

Several officials advocated for putting more law enforcement in Kentucky schools.

Marshall County Sheriff Kevin Byers said that school resource officers, or SROs, make schools safer by building relationships with students.

“You would not believe the information that is confided in our SROs,” Byers said. “They’ll tell us things that they won’t tell teachers, that they won’t tell other officers.”

This year Kentucky legislators passed a policy allowing law enforcement to rehire retirees to serve as school resource officers without having to pay for their retirement and health insurance.

Lawmakers considered several other school safety and gun safety measures ranging from putting mental health counselors in schools to arming teachers, but none of the bills got traction.

The Federal Commission on School Safety is led by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and also includes Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

None of the secretaries attended the Lexington meeting, but sent deputies instead.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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