Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is defending her decision to eliminate protections for transgender students, despite knowing the potential consequences of her actions.
DeVos appeared this week before the House Education and Labor Committee, where lawmakers questioned her push to rescind the Obama administration's guidelines extending Title IX protections to trans kids in schools, Newsweek reports.
Under DeVos, the Department of Education rolled back these protections, which explicitly demanded that public schools allow trans students to use public restrooms aligning with their gender identity, even if that conflicted with the assigned gender on their birth certificates.
“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?” Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) asked DeVos. “Did you know that?” When DeVos began to explain that the Office for Civil Rights was “committed” to protecting all students, Bonamici cut her off.
“I’m sorry, but I would really like an answer. Students and families need to know this,” the civil rights subcommittee chairwoman pressed before repeating her question.
“I do know that,” DeVos said. “But I will say again that OCR is committed to ensuring that all students have access to their education free from discrimination.”
Bonamici then asked DeVos if, before rolling back the protections, she knew about an American Academy of Pediatrics study that revealed “alarming levels” of attempted suicide among trans youth.
“I’m aware of that data,” DeVos responded.
Bonamici later issued a statement saying she was “troubled” by DeVos’ response: “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.”
Last month DeVos appeared before the House and refused to say she opposed anti-LGBTQ discrimination, repeatedly evading a question on whether she thought it was okay for schools to discriminate students based on sexual orientation or gender identity.