Thursday, February 23, 2017

What to make of Betsy DeVos' comments on "protecting" LGBT children?

Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos
The short answer is “nothing at all.” Trump has “succeeded” in a very Putin-like way. Given the amount of bullshit that the administration promulgates we no longer know what to believe and what not to believe. This is intended to keep us insecure and off-balance.

It has even been reported that the education secretary did not support an administration rollback of protections for transgender students. Yet, it is hard to figure that it could have been done without DeVos' assistance or, at least, the assistance of people who at least nominally report to DeVos.

Along with the “Dear Colleague” letter, DeVos (or administration flacks) issued a statement:
At my direction, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights remains committed to investigating all claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment against those who are most vulnerable in our schools,
That's great but it doesn't address the marginalization and stigmatization of gender nonconforming children according to the administration's revised guidance.
We have a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment. This is not merely a federal mandate, but a moral obligation no individual, school, district or state can abdicate.
According to US News:
The carefully worded statement comes after reports that DeVos did not want to eliminate the guidance – now her first major action as education secretary – and had locked horns with Attorney General Jeff Sessions over issuing the directive reversing it.
Even in an administration as dysfunctional, erratic and impulsive as this one, it is hard to imagine that this issue wasn't agreed upon prior to DeVos' nomination. The source of that sentiment is probably a story in the New York Times on Wednesday:
Mr. Sessions, who has opposed expanding gay, lesbian and transgender rights, pushed Ms. DeVos to relent. After getting nowhere, he took his objections to the White House because he could not go forward without her consent. Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general, the Republicans said, and told Ms. DeVos in a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he wanted her to drop her opposition. And Ms. DeVos, faced with the alternative of resigning or defying the president, agreed to go along.
I don't know if the leak to the Times was no leak at all but part of a strategy or if a disorganized White House is profoundly undisciplined. It makes no difference either way. Yesterday US News wrote:
There is “no daylight” between Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions when it comes to the decision to eliminate guidance set by the previous administration that ensures transgender students have access to a bathroom that matches their gender identity, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday.
The bottom line is that the administration has isolated and marginalized our most vulnerable children — those who are gender nonconforming. They have given cover to people whose religion does their thinking for them in contrast to medical science. The only message that counts is the one sent in rescinding the Obama-era guidance. Ms. DeVos will have ample opportunity to demonstrate her intentions and must be judged by what she does, not by statements attributed to her.

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