Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education will go before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Tuesday at 5 pm ET.
Writes Lambda Legal:
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students contact Lambda Legal every day to seek help being safe at school. We need a Secretary of Education who will make schools safe for all students, and who won’t tolerate bullying – by peers, parents, or school administrators. What we know so far about Betsy DeVos’s record concerns us. She has supported Focus on the Family, which opposes marriage equality, and her family foundation has funded a group that advances the dangerous practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy.’ Her advocacy for privatizing public education could eject students – LGBT or not – from the protection of federal laws. A complete confirmation process for Betsy DeVos is necessary in order to fully investigate whether she supports equal rights for LGBT students.
Under the Obama administration, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights has aggressively policed civil rights issues — such as cracking down on colleges that mishandle sexual assault cases, and urging schools to extend anti-bullying policies to cover LGBT students. During the election, the Trump campaign was critical of the civil rights office, with some Trump surrogates questioning its very existence. DeVos has said little about such issues, but civil rights advocates have said they’re “deeply concerned” that she might seek to rein in the office’s enforcement efforts. They note the DeVos family has a long history of supporting anti-gay causes — including donating hundreds of thousands to groups that push “conversion therapy” — raising questions about how DeVos would address discrimination against gay and transgender students. Democrats and advocacy groups are also concerned about donations that DeVos’ foundation made to another group, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which has pushed to raise the standard of evidence in sexual assault cases on college campuses. Ed Patru, a spokesman for a group of DeVos supporters, said she sees private school vouchers and charter schools as a civil rights issue. “In hundreds of communities of color, kids aren’t being taught the skills they need to succeed in college or find the kinds of jobs that pay enough to escape poverty, and Betsy believes that is an alarming civil rights crisis,” Patru said.