Three Ways Betsy DeVos Has Undermined Protections for Students

It has been more than a year since the Trump-Pence administration began dismantling and withdrawing vital protections in place to support marginalized students. Since her confirmation to office, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has made clear that the Department of Education no longer prioritizes protecting all students from harm.

In case you missed it, here are three of the Trump-Pence administration’s most dangerous threats to students under DeVos’ authority:

1. Under the direction of DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, within days of taking office, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice revoked the Obama Administration’s guidance detailing schools’ obligations to transgender students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. While students are still entitled to the legal protections guaranteed by Title IX, the action clouded schools’ understanding of their obligations to transgender youth. Reports have since surfaced that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has dismissed cases of discrimination filed by transgender students and their families.

WATCH: Families of transgender kids traveled to the US Dept. of Education (@usedgov) to deliver a message to @BetsyDeVos. The letter, signed by more than 700 parents of trans youth, urges Sec. DeVos to recognize the “basic human and civil rights of transgender students.”

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) February 8, 2018

.@BetsyDeVosED complained about being criticized for not upholding the rights of students, despite failing time and time again to protect or enforce our nation’s civil rights laws when it comes to protecting #LGBTQ students.

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) February 21, 2018

2. In Sept. 2017, DeVos withdrew vital Title IX guidance related to schools’ obligations to address sexual harassment, including sexual violence — an action that disproportionately impacts LGBTQ people. Studies suggest that nearly half of bisexual women have been raped and half of transgender people will experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetimes. HRC’s Jordan Dashow, an LGBTQ survivor, revealed the cruelty behind this message in a powerful oped calling for strong enforcement of Title IX. 

Last year, #LGBTQ survivor Jordan Dashow (@j_dashow) revealed the cruelty behind @BetsyDeVosED’s dangerous decision to rescind #TitleIX sexual assault guidance for schools. Student survivors need to know that the government will take their complaints seriously. #EnoughIsEnough

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) April 24, 2018

It has been more than six months since the Trump-Pence administration withdrew vital #TitleIX guidance on sexual violence. @HRC continues to demand justice for these student survivors because #EnoughIsEnough. #WorkSafeLearnSafe

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) April 24, 2018

3. Recently, reports have surfaced that DeVos is considering rescinding guidance protecting students from discrimination in the application of school discipline as part of her new Federal Commission on School Safety. Schools are explicitly prohibited from discriminating against students based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion or disability. In 2014, the Department of Education issued guidance and provided resources to help ensure schools are providing an equal opportunity for all students. The consequences of exclusionary school discipline can be devastating to young people, especially those who may already face marginalization in school, their communities and even at home.

Ignoring discrimination will not make schools safer despite @BetsyDeVosED turning her back on students with marginalized identities. #RethinkDiscipline

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) March 20, 2018

Rescinding and weakening these and other guidance sends a clear message that the Department of Education will not do its job as a federal agency devoted to enforcing civil rights laws in educational settings. Students need to know that the government will take their complaints seriously and that they will be protected from abuse, harassment and violence.

HRC will continue to fight alongside civil rights and education advocates — both during Sexual Assault Awareness Month and throughout the rest of the year — to protect the civil rights of all students.

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