Testifying Wednesday before the House Education and Labor Committee Betsy DeVos said she knew one of her very first acts as Secretary of Education could greatly harm transgender students, but she did it anyway.
In February of 2017 Secretary DeVos announced she was rescinding guidance (and telling schools to ignore the law) created by the Obama administration designed to protect the civil rights of transgender students, while helping schools and parents understand best practices surrounding their needs.
“We know that transgender students are frequently bullied and victimized,” U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) told Sec. DeVos. “We know, also, that the 2016 guidance to schools about transgender students was applauded by education experts, healthcare experts, educators, counselors, pediatricians, psychologists – because it made students safer at school,” Bonamici explained.
“When you rolled back that guidance did you know that the stress of harassment and discrimination can lead to lower attendance and grades as well as depression and anxiety for transgender students?”
DeVos stonewalled, claiming the Education Dept.’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is “committed to ensuring all students have equal access to education free from discrimination,” which is provably false.
“I do know that,” DeVos finally replied, when pressed.
“Let me ask you this as well,” Rep. Bonamici continued, clearly not satisfied that DeVos was getting the message.
“When you rolled back the guidance did you know that a study recently published by the American Academy of Pediatrics revealed alarming levels of suicide among transgender students? Did you know that as well when you rolled back the guidance?”
Secretary DeVos’ only response was, “I’m aware of that data.”
Watch their exchange:
.@RepBonamici: “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?”
— CSPAN (@cspan) April 10, 2019
That study Secretary DeVos seemed unimpressed by found that overall, about one in seven (14%) “of adolescents reported a previous suicide attempt.”
That alone is staggering.
But it gets even worse. The study found “disparities by gender identity in suicide attempts.”
Female to male adolescents reported the highest rate of attempted suicide (50.8%), followed by adolescents who identified as not exclusively male or female (41.8%), male to female adolescents (29.9%), questioning adolescents (27.9%), female adolescents (17.6%), and male adolescents (9.8%).
DeVos’ apparent indifference to the plight of transgender students comes just two weeks after she repeatedly defended defunding the Special Olympics in her 2019 budget. The outrage, nationwide, lasted days, until President Trump reversed the decision.
Meanwhile, days after rolling back that historic and important guidance in 2017, DeVos appeared at a far right wing conservative conference and blasted the guidance as an example of “huge overreach” by the Obama administration.
Rescinding guidance for transgender students was far from the only attack the Education Secretary has made on minority students.
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