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US School Safety Commission largely gives games a pass

Group convened by Trump in wake of mass shooting earlier this year suggests schools monitor internet access, media ratings bodies review policies

After a gunman killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, violent video games were invoked by US President Donald Trump as a possible contributing factor to the country's decades-long trend of school shootings.

After meeting with representatives of the industry to discuss the subject, Trump established the Federal Commission on School Safety, chaired by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, to investigate the issue and provide "meaningful and actionable recommendations to keep students safe at school." The commission released its final report today and had relatively little to say about gaming.

In a three-page chapter on "Violent Entertainment and Rating Systems," the commission provided a cross-section of research and criticisms and defenses for a variety of media, including music, TV, movies, and games. It offered up just three recommendations. First, the commission suggested state and local education agencies ensure that they are curbing students' access to inappropriate content online. Second, it suggested schools work with parents "to strengthen internet safety measures at schools," giving as an example parents who asked their school district to block social media sites at middle schools and provide parents with a log of their child's internet activity.

Finally, the commission addressed the ratings agencies, saying, "While some self-regulators provide easy-to-understand rating systems and effectively restrict content through retailer requirements, all of them should review and improve policies to ensure access to content is limited to age-appropriate consumers."

When asked for comment, a representative with the Entertainment Software Association said, "We support the School Safety Commission's mission to make schools safer for students, and we're pleased that they were open to learn more about our industry, including the many initiatives that we undertake to empower and inform consumers. It bears noting that the same video games are played all over the world by 2.6 billion gamers, yet the United States stands alone in its rate of gun violence. As we shared with the Commission, study after study has shown no causal link between video games and real-world violence."

The report included a single chapter on gun control spanning three pages and specifically focused on "The Efficacy of Age Restrictions for Firearm Purchases." It had two recommendations for states on the subject: promote the safe storage of firearms and "consider sponsoring additional research to determine how best to prevent adolescents from unlawfully accessing firearms."

It also included a six-page chapter on The Obama Administration's 'Rethink School Discipline' Guidance, which sought to ensure minority children weren't being unfairly disciplined in the educational system. The commission was "deeply troubled" by the guidance, saying it made schools less safe. It then suggested the Department of Education and Department of Justice rescind the policy.

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