Secretary of education Betsy DeVos stood strong in resistance against attorney general Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump on the administration’s policy on transgender rights in public schools today. The president is expected to release new guidelines on transgender students in public schools.
“I would expect further guidance to come on that today,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said today, he didn’t provide specifics. He also remarked that the president is “a firm believer in states’ rights.”
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Spicer did not, however, comment on the divergent preferences of Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education, and Jeff Sessions, the attorney general. Sessions made it clear his position, saying that the administration would move quickly to reverse the Obama administration policy of accommodating transgender students.
Spicer said that Ms. DeVos was “100 percent” in support of the actions being taken by the attorney general and the president. Although that statement isn’t true, as Ms. DeVos resisted the action at first, say three Republicans with information about the talks.
She has been a silent supporter of gay rights for a long time, even though she and her husband have donated to anti-gay rights, as well as coming from a conservative family. President Donald Trump has also expressed his support of LGBT rights, most notably at the Republican National Convention, when he said he would support LGBT rights to great applause by the crowd. Mr. Trump sided with the attorney general, and Ms. DeVos was left to either continue resisting and face possible resignation, or side with the majority and let it go.
“School administrators, parents and students have expressed varying views on the legal issues arising in this setting,” a draft by the Trump administration says. “They have also struggled to understand and apply the statements of policy and guidance” in the Obama orders.
In rolling back the Obama administration policy of allowing transgender students rights, they are wading into an issue that has divided liberals and conservatives in the so-called “bathroom debate”.
Last year, North Carolina’s governor signed a bill called HB2, which restricted bathroom usage based on biological sex. The law led to protests and outrage in the court of public opinion.
“Let me say I fully embrace equality, and I believe in the innate value of every single human being, and that all students, no matter their age, should be able to attend a school and feel safe and be free of discrimination,” Ms. DeVos said.
Though the administration plans to reverse policy allowing transgender students the rights in public schools, the letter circulated by the Trump administration also says that schools will protect transgender students from bullying and harassment, a clause that was pushed by Ms. DeVos and Ms. DeVos alone.
“Students must ensure that transgender students, like all students, are able to learn in a safe environment,” the letter also says. Ms. DeVos, who as previously stated has been silently supportive of LGBT rights, referenced the high rate of suicide among transgender students.
The letter, which will lead to the new policy, shows the power that Mr. Sessions will surely have during his time as attorney general over domestic policy. He has moved fast to change transgender policy in the first month of the Trump presidency.