lgbtq

Betsy DeVos Refuses to Say She’ll Protect LGBTQ Students

betsy devos

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On Tuesday, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said 14 times that she won’t guarantee schools receiving federal funds will be specifically prevented from discriminating against LGBTQ students. It seems like she doesn’t believe it’s a school’s job to protect students who happen to identify as LGBTQ.

I guess some kids matter more than others, according to her logic.

As a former teacher, I’m disgusted. Typing out those words literally makes me feel physically ill–because all kids should be protected, especially by their school leaders and administration. According to NPR, DeVos testified at a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, where she answered every question about LGBTQ discrimination with “schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law,” a vague answer at best.

However, since there are no explicit laws in place protecting LGBTQ students from discrimination, her responses weren’t helpful at all–and the fact that she doesn’t want to push for legislation to be passed in favor of these students is astounding.

In case you aren’t aware (or just need a frustrating reminder), DeVos’ proposed budget would cut billions of dollars in funding for public schools, thus, pushing kids to go to private and religious schools–which is strange to deter kids. Isn’t her job supposed to make public schools better?

Because she firmly believes that the Department of Education should not give any helpful information to schools about how to deal with LGBTQ issues, schools that openly discriminate could still be given money. Why reward bad behavior? What lesson does that teach?

So, what did DeVos actually say. This:

“On areas where the law is unsettled, this department is not going to be issuing decrees. That is a matter for Congress and the courts to settle.

Schools that receive federal funds will follow federal law, period.

Any school that accepts federal funds, will follow federal laws, period, without discrimination.”

Seems like a lot of unclear answers without real guidance. A few weeks ago, she testified before the House Appropriations Committee, echoing much of the same sentiment, as pointed out by Slate:

“The bottom line is we believe that parents are the best equipped to make choices for their children’s schooling and education decisions. States and local communities are best equipped to make these decisions and framework.”

While it may initially sound OK to let local governments make choices, it’s not, because it essentially means any public school can deny or discriminate against LGBTQ students in any way they want–and that’s not a good precedent to set.

This would also make a student’s experience vastly different depending on state, exacerbating education inequality. Leaders from civil rights groups are outraged, like Mara Keisling, who is the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. She stated:

“Secretary DeVos’ withdrawal of lifesaving guidance supporting transgender students has already been repudiated by the courts. Her recent statements that she would let private schools openly discriminate with federal dollars are unacceptable.”

This makes transgender students, like Gavin Grimm, essentially silenced. Grimm has been fighting to be able to use the bathroom associated with his gender identity (and so far, the case has been delayed).

For students like Grimm, school discrimination causes undue emotional trauma and stress–and also encourages students to hide and stay silent. As an LGBTQ-identified person, that’s exactly what I did while I was in school–and I can’t say it helped me emotionally–or academically.

Regardless, we also need to support, and keep supporting, the transgender and LGBTQ community. Check out Jewish organization Keshet’s campaign for more information on how to do this.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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