Post submitted by former HRC Communications Campaign Director Brandon Lorenz
UPDATE: The Senate voted 51-50 to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. All of the Democratic Senators voted against her confirmation, as well as Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME), requiring Vice President Mike Pence to cast the tie breaking vote – a first for a cabinet pick. HRC reached out to our members and supporters encouraging them to contact their senator to oppose her confirmation along with submitting the letter below.
In advance of tomorrow’s scheduled markup of Betsy DeVos, HRC sent a letter U.S. Senators calling for them to vote “no” on her nomination.
“LGBTQ students need a leader at the Department of Education who will defend their right to a safe environment where they can learn without compromising who they are,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. “Mrs. DeVos has not shown that she is able or willing to truly rise to this challenge and ensure all LGBTQ students -- especially transgender students whose rights are being targeted by our opponents in Washington and across the country. The Senate should reject Mrs. DeVos’ nomination.”
A survey by the HRC Foundation found that three-quarters of transgender students feel unsafe in school settings. A report by the Williams Institute found that half of transgender adults who were bullied in school had attempted suicide.
In 2016, the Departments of Justice and Education issued historic and invaluable guidance for school districts to ensure transgender students will be treated with dignity in public and federally funded schools. Despite many questions from Senators on the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, Mrs. DeVos has not described the steps that she plans to take to ensure that every student receiving an education funded by taxpayer dollars has full and equal access to schools and opportunities regardless of their, or their parents’, sexual orientation or gender identity.
The full text of the letter can be found here. From the letter:
"Recent studies have shown that LGBTQ and gender nonconforming youth face significantly higher rates of bullying, harassment, and isolation than their peers. This bullying can escalate to violence at school, and also compounds existing disparities in graduation rates, criminalization, and health. Too often, incidents of bullying and harassment by peers are ignored, or even approved, by school staff and administrators. Recognizing this increased risk and the lifelong impacts of school violence and bullying, the Department of Education has provided clear, accessible tools and guidance for schools and teachers confronted with this issue. This information is designed to keep every student safe, and ensure that every child has access to the education they are entitled to and need to succeed.
"It is essential that any nominee chosen to serve as Secretary of the Department provide a clear commitment to these goals and to protecting the rights of all students, including those who are LGBTQ.