By Lydia Wheeler
June 5, 2017
Civil rights leaders are demanding Education Secretary Betsy DeVos commit to protecting students from discrimination when she testifies before members of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, DeVos refused to rule out giving federal funds to schools that discriminate.
In defending President Trump’s proposal to spend $1.4 billion to expand the school choice program, DeVos told members of a House Appropriations subcommittee that it would be up to states to decide whether to withhold federal money from private schools that are neither required to serve a diverse pool of students nor held publicly accountable for doing so, The New York Times reported.
In a call with reporters hosted by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Monday, civil rights leaders called that answer unacceptable.
“We should have a Secretary of Education that understands that her job is to protect and promote the civil rights of every student in this country,” said Liz King, the group's senior policy analyst and director of education policy.
Advocates slammed DeVos for joining Attorney General Jeff Sessions in her first act as the department head to roll back protections for transgender students.
Sessions and DeVos rescinded Obama-era guidance in February that directed schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. While DeVos reportedly opposedthe administration’s draft order, she ultimately relented and publicly supported withdrawing the guidance.
LGBT rights advocates are hoping members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies will push her Tuesday to protect students from discrimination.
“It is not too late for the secretary to change course and commit to protecting the dignity and safety of all students,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said.
“We urge her to do that.”