In an exchange on Capitol Hill, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos admitted in a hearing she knew about the potential dangers to transgender students before she implemented various policies.
DeVos appeared before the House Education Committee during a hearing on Wednesday (10 April).
During the hearing, civil rights subcommittee Chairwoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) brought up the Education Department’s decision to rollback guidance meant to protect transgender students under DeVos’ leadership.
Bonamici brought up the negative consequences for transgender students with this rollback. These consequences include poor academic performance and higher rates of depression.
She asked DeVos if she knew about these consequences, which the Education Secretary first avoided answering: ‘[The U.S. Office for Civil Rights] OCR is committed to ensuring all students have equal access to education free from discrimination — ‘
Bonamici then cut her off and demanded an answer, stating that ‘students and families need to know this’.
‘Did you know, when you rolled back the guidance, that the stress of harassment and discrimination can lead to lower attendance and grades as well as depression for transgender students?’ Bonamici repeated.
‘I do know that,’ DeVos said in response. ‘But I will say again that OCR is committed to ensuring all students have access to their education free from discrimination.’
Later on in the exchange, Bonamici also asked DeVos if she knew about data showing how suicide ideation is higher among trans youth, to which DeVos responded affirmatively.
.@RepBonamici to Sec. DeVos: When you rolled back guidance protecting rights of transgender students, did you know that the stress of harassment and discrimination can lead to lower attendance/grades as well as depression for transgender students?
Sec. DeVos: I do know that…437:51 AM – Apr 10, 201957 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy
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Following the hearing, Bonamici released a statement.
‘The Department of Education has a responsibility to protect all students, but she acknowledged that she moved forward with a plan to rollback protections for transgender students despite knowing that it would put them at risk,’ she said.
Department of Education spokesperson Liz Hill, meanwhile, told The Hill that DeVos is ‘committed to protecting the civil rights of all students and ensuring each and every student has the ability to go to school in a safe and nurturing learning environment’.
This, however, is not the first time that Donald Trump’s Education Department has come under fire for its handling of LGBTI issues.
Most recently, DeVos refused to directly condemn LGBTI discrimination in schools.