Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos defended her agency’s decision to roll back protections for transgender students, reported The Hill.
DeVos acknowledged the agency’s 2017 choice to rescind Obama-era bathroom regulations allowing transgender students to use gender-congruent bathrooms during a hearing in front of the House Education Committee. She said she was aware of the negative effects of discrimination on transgender students when making the decision.
Civil rights subcommittee Chairwoman Suzanne Bonamici asked DeVos if, when she made the decision to rescind these regulations, she knew that harassment and discrimination could lead to poor academic performance and depression.
“OCR [the U.S. Office for Civil Rights] is committed to ensuring all student have equal access to education free from discrimination…” DeVos started to answer, but was interrupted by Bonamici, who repeated her question.
“Sorry, I would really like an answer,” the congresswoman said. “Students and families need to know this. 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?”
“I do know that,” DeVos answered. “But I will say again that OCR is committed to ensuring all students have access to their education free from discrimination.”
.@RepBonamici to Sec. DeVos: When you rolled back guidance protecting rights of transgender students, did you know that the stress of harassment and discrimination can lead to lower attendance/grades as well as depression for transgender students?
Bonamici went on to ask if DeVos knew about data from the American Association of Pediatrics that found “alarming levels of attempted suicide among transgender youth.”
“I am aware of that data,” DeVos responded.
Bonamici issued a statement after the questioning, saying she was “troubled” by the answers the secretary gave.
“The Department of Education has a responsibility to protect all students, but she acknowledged that she moved forward with a plan to rollback protections for transgender students despite knowing that it would put them at risk,” she said.
LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD also reacted to DeVos’ answers on Twitter, calling her “cruel.”
Liz Hill, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, told The Hill that DeVos “is committed to protecting the civil rights of all students and ensuring each and every student has the ability to go to school in a safe and nurturing learning environment.”