03.02.17

Committee Democrats Push DeVos on Protections for Transgender Students

WASHINGTON – Earlier today, Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-03), Ranking Member of the Committee on Education and Workforce, and Rep. Susan Davis (CA-53), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development, led Committee Democrats in sending a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos about the recent actions taken by the Trump Administration reversing critical guidance for protecting transgender students. The Members pushed Secretary DeVos to explain the discrepancy in her public statements about whether she is supportive of the civil rights of transgender students.

“We were heartened to read your statement which recognized our responsibility to ensure that every student in American has, ‘the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment,” the Members wrote. “However, we are confused by the sharp contrast between this statement and the comments you made at the Conservative Political Action Conference where you called these key safeguards examples of federal overreach.”

The elimination of the guidance clarifying the scope of Title IX protections will cause significant harm to transgender students. The Members pushed Secretary DeVos to protect transgender students under her authority as the head of the Department of Education. 

“If the Department of Justice remains resistant to generally protecting LGBTQIA students, we ask that you take concrete steps to at least ensure the safety of these students under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education,” wrote the Members. “We recommend that you convene groups of state and district leaders to discuss best practices for supporting transgender students, provide resources for school employees that detail how they can create inclusive environment, and highlight examples of schools that implement these best practices effectively.”

Full text of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear Madame Secretary:

We are writing to express our profound concern about the recent reversal of critical guidance for protecting transgender students. The elimination of the guidance clarifying the scope of Title IX protections will send a dangerous message to transgender students. We were heartened to read your statement which recognized our responsibility to ensure that every student in American has, “the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment.” However, we are confused by the sharp contrast between this statement and the comments you made at the Conservative Political Action Conference where you called these key safeguards examples of federal overreach.

As members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, we know that students learn best when they feel supported and protected at school. We also know that too many transgender students are bullied in schools across our country every day. According to a study conducted by the National Center of Transgender Equality, 54% of transgender students surveyed reported being verbally harassed and 24% reported being physically attacked. In fact, the study found that 17% of transgender students were so badly mistreated that they left their schools altogether. Given the alarming impact of these statistics on the quality of life and education for transgender students, we ask that you clarify your views on the scope of the Department of Education’s responsibility to protect these students. Additionally, we ask that you share what you believe the Department of Education’s Title IX responsibilities are in the case of LGBTQIA students. 

If the Department of Justice remains resistant to generally protecting LGBTQIA students, we ask that you take concrete steps to at least ensure the safety of these students under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education. We recommend that you convene groups of state and district leaders to discuss best practices for supporting transgender students, provide resources for school employees that detail how they can create inclusive environment, and highlight examples of schools that implement these best practices effectively.

We are counting on your leadership on this important issue and hope you will protect students across our country. We remain committed to helping you in these vital efforts, and thank you for your prompt attention to this issue.

Sincerely,

Rep. Bobby Scott

Rep. Susan Davis

Rep. Raúl Grijalva

Rep. Marcia Fudge

Rep. Jared Polis

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici

Rep. Mark Takano

Rep. Alma Adams

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi

Rep. Carol Shea-Porter

Rep. Adriano Espaillat

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Press Contact

Kiara Pesante (Scott), 202-226-0853

Aaron Hunter (Davis), 202-225-2040