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23 Jun, 2023 16:43

Leading US school shutdown advocate rewarded with Homeland Security role

The Department of Homeland Security has filled out the ranks of its revamped Academic Partnership Council
Leading US school shutdown advocate rewarded with Homeland Security role

Randi Weingarten, the controversial head of the US’ second-largest teachers’ union, the American Federation of Teachers, has been appointed to the Department of Homeland Security’s newly-expanded Academic Partnership Council, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced on Wednesday. 

The council will issue recommendations to the DHS regarding “campus safety and security, improved coordination, research priorities, hiring, and more,” Mayorkas said in a press release unveiling the 20 new appointments. 

Another press release mentioned emergency response and preparedness, targeted violence and terrorism prevention, and selecting ideal candidates for DHS careers as issues to be covered by the council. 

Critics have denounced Weingarten’s appointment to the committee, pointing to her support for shutting down schools and imposing mask mandates on students during the Covid-19 pandemic despite a lack of scientific evidence supporting either practice. Studies have shown student performance and mental health declined precipitously during the lockdown period. 

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the appointment as “an insult to every parent who dealt with closed schools.”  

“Math and reading scores for the Nation’s 13-year-olds are at the worst decline in decades,” Rep. Ben Cline (R-Virginia) tweeted, accusing Weingarten of “appeasing teacher unions over getting students back in the classroom” and the DHS of “rewarding bad policy.”

“Turns out that if you call concerned parents domestic terrorists and work tirelessly to keep schools closed, you qualify as an adviser to DHS,” Parents Defending Education director of outreach Erika Sanzi told the Washington Examiner on Friday, calling Weingarten’s hire “a major red flag.” 

Other additions to the 30-member council include Teach For America CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard, who will serve as chair; Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho; Northwestern University President Michael Schill; and International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators President Chief John Ojeisekhoba. 

Previously called the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council, the group was reestablished by Mayorkas last year. It had been dissolved under the Trump administration after not holding a single meeting in two years. 

In 2021, the National School Boards Association wrote to President Joe Biden claiming American public schools and their staff were facing “a growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation” constituting “a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.” The group demanded the White House provide “federal law enforcement and other assistance” for their protection. Following widespread public backlash against the letter, Weingarten posted a video in support of the NSBA, implying parents protesting mask mandates and politicized curricula at board meetings were committing “actual violence.”