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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NC Bill Orders Any School Employee to ‘Immediately’ Notify Parents if a Child ‘Exhibits Gender Nonconformity’
A North Carolina bill attacking the state’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and especially transgender and queer or questioning youth and young adults violates their right to privacy and places tremendous power in the hands of any person – regardless of training or expertise – who is employed by, contracted by, or is even a volunteer to any school district, court, or child placement agency.
Senate Bill 514 makes it illegal for any teacher, school administrator, contractor, and even volunteers, among other “government agents,” to not “immediately” inform, in writing, the parents or legal guardians of any child or young adult – up to the age of 21 – if that “minor under its care or supervision has exhibited symptoms of gender dysphoria, gender nonconformity, or otherwise demonstrates a desire to be treated in a manner incongruent with the minor’s sex.”
“The notice shall describe all of the relevant circumstances with reasonable specificity,” the legislation adds.
In other words, the bill’s author, Republican state Senator Ralph Hise (photo), a Trump acolyte, is deputizing every government “agent, employee, volunteer, or contractor of a public child services agency, private child placing agency, court, or school district” to not only determine what constitutes symptoms of gender dysphoria (a medical diagnosis) or gender nonconformity, an entirely subjective belief.
The legislation also “would prevent doctors from performing gender confirmation surgery for transgender people younger than 21,” the Associated Press reports.
“Medical professionals who facilitate a transgender person’s desire to present themselves or appear in a way that is inconsistent with their biological sex could have their license revoked and face civil fines of up to $1,000 per occurrence. The measure bars doctors from providing gender confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery.”
The mis-named legislation, the Youth Health Protection Act, pushes the age of majority from 18 to 21 for the purposes of banning gender confirmation treatment of any kind, and for reporting to parents the possibility their children may be transgender. It literally puts some LGBTQ children at risk of physical and emotional abuse and homelessness, and sends the message statewide to be on the lookout for LGBTQ children and young adults, and that their behavior should be subject to extraordinary action.
“Transgender youth have the best chance to thrive when they are supported and affirmed, not singled out and denied critical care that is backed by virtually every leading health authority,” Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, said in a statement to the AP, adding that “a person’s gender identity shouldn’t limit their ability to access health care or be treated with dignity and respect.”
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