Post submitted by Jordan Dashow, former Federal Policy Manager
Earlier today, 34 Democratic U.S. senators, led by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos expressing disappointment and alarm over the Trump-Pence Administration’s efforts to diminish the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) enforcement of civil rights laws and calling on the department to provide specific documents relating to their enforcement efforts.
The letter details DeVos’ refusal to commit to protecting student’s civil rights, a recent ED event that featured anti-LGBTQ hate group the Family Research Council, and the appointment of staff who oppose ED’s guidance on schools’ obligations under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 to address sexual harassment, including sexual violence. The letter also documents recent decisions by ED to narrow its investigations of discrimination and harassment, and end oversight by department headquarters of certain types of investigations.
A significant portion of the letter is also devoted to the department’s actions around transgender discrimination. Earlier this year, the Departments of Education and Justice, under the direction of DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, rescinded Obama-era guidance explaining schools’ obligations to protect transgender students under Title IX.
In addition to citing this rescission, the senators’ letter also cites additional anti-transgender actions taken by DeVos and her department, including dismissing or closing at least two civil rights cases involving transgender students, withdrawing previous findings of discrimination against school districts, and publishing a memo that permits investigators to dismiss cases relating to anti-transgender discrimination.
The letter concludes by requesting nine pieces of information and documents, including a list of all open Office for Civil Rights (OCR) cases involving transgender students as of January 30, 2017, so the senators can “fully understand the impact of recent policy and civil rights investigatory and enforcement changes at the Department and OCR.“
“There is no more serious responsibility of the Department [of Education] than to ensure consistent, vigorous enforcement of civil rights laws and protections for all students,” the letter states.
HRC could not agree more and commends Senator Murray and the 33 Democratic Senators who also signed on to the letter to DeVos. HRC echoes their call for DeVos to vigorously enforce civil rights law and ensure LGBTQ students are protected from discrimination.