President meets with families affected by shooting
“Itwas like talking to a toddler.” — Rhonda Hart, whose daughter Kimberly Vaughan was killed in the Texas shooting, on talking to President Donald Trump about school safety on Thurday
HOUSTON » President Donald Trump spentmore than an hour Thursday offering private condolences to some of the families affected by this month’s deadly Texas school shooting, the latest spasm of mass violence in a year marred by assaults on the nation’s schools.
While in Texas, Trump’s newly formed school safety commission met outside Washington, part of the president’s chosen solution to combat the rising tide of bloodshed after his brief flirtation with tougher gun laws went nowhere.
A White House spokesman said Trump was “moved” by the May 18 shooting at Santa Fe High School, which left eight students and two substitute teachers dead. A student faces capital murder charges in the attack.
“These events are very tragic, whenever they happen. And you know, the president wants to extend his condolences and talk about the issue of school safety,” spokesman Raj Shah told Fox News Channel.
Trump, who at times has awkwardly embracedhis role as the national comforter-in- chief, did not publicly share what he told the grieving families and local leaders during a meeting at a Coast Guard base outside Houston. Reporters were not permitted to witness the meeting, but Pamela Stanich — whose 17-year- old son, Jared Black, was among the eight students killed — was one of the parents who met with Trump, giving him a family statement and her son’s eulogy.
Trump “met withus privately and showed sincerity, compassion, and concern on making our schools safer across the nation,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “He spent time talking to the survivors and asking on what happened and what would havemade a difference. Changes are coming for the good. Thank you Mr. Trump.”
Rhonda Har t , whose 14-year- old daughter, Kimberly Vaughan, was killed at the school, also met with Trump.
Hart told The Associated Press that Trump repeatedly used the word ‘ wacky’ to describe the shooter and the trench coat he wore.
She said she told Trump, “Maybe if everyone had access to mental health care, we wouldn’t be in the situation.”
Hart, an Army veteran, said she also suggested employing veterans as sentinels in schools. She said Trump responded, “And arm them?”
She replied, “No,” but said Trump “kept mentioning” arming classroom teachers. “It was like talking to a toddler,” Hart said.
All told, more than two dozen people affected by the shooting joined Trump, according to the White House. Also Thursday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whomTrump put in charge of the school safety commission, announced a $1million grant to the Santa Fe school district to help with post-shooting recovery efforts.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz, both Republicans, greeted Trump after Air Force One landed at a Houston military base. Abbott joined Trump for the short ride in the presidential limousine to a Coast Guard hangar where the meeting took place.
Trump then headed to a fundraiser at a luxury hotel in downtown Houston, the first of his two big- dollar events in Texas on Thursday. A White House official did not immediately respond to requests for details about how much money was to be raised, and who was benefiting, from the fundraising events.
After 17 teachers and students were killed during a February shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, Trump said he would work to improve school safety, but has not called for new gun control legislation.