Betsy DeVos: Education Department ‘Committed’ to Protecting LGBT Students

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos addresses the department staff at the Department of Education on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017 in Washington. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
AP/Molly Riley

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says her department’s Office for Civil Rights “remains committed to investigating all claims of discrimination, bullying, and harassment” against “vulnerable” LGBT students in the nation’s schools.

DeVos’s statement follows a report in the New York Times which suggests she was at odds with the president and Attorney General Jeff Sessions over changing Obama’s pro-transgender policy.

The education secretary, whose confirmation was the subject of unprecedented controversy, released the following statement Wednesday evening:

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. 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.

The statement continues that “no immediate impact” will be experienced by students due to the reform of the Obama era pro-transgender guidance since a federal court issued a nationwide injunction against the policy last August.

In her statement, DeVos echoes the comments of White House spokesman Sean Spicer earlier in the day regarding the Trump administration’s decision to leave the issue of transgender students’ bathroom and locker room use to the states.

The secretary said:

This is an issue best solved at the state and local level. Schools, communities, and families can find – and in many cases have found – solutions that protect all students.

I have dedicated my career to advocating for and fighting on behalf of students, and as Secretary of Education, I consider protecting all students, including LGBTQ students, not only a key priority for the Department, but for every school in America.

We owe all students a commitment to ensure they have access to a learning environment that is free of discrimination, bullying and harassment.

As Breitbart News reported, Trump is planning to reform the Obama directive which declares children can change their gender simply by announcing they have the “gender identity” of the opposite sex and, therefore, should be permitted to use the bathrooms and shower rooms of whichever sex they identify with at any given time.

The Times reports an apparent dispute between DeVos and Trump and Sessions over the transgender bathroom issue:

The question of how to address the “bathroom debate,” as it has become known, opened a rift inside the Trump administration, pitting the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, against Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mr. Sessions, who had been expected to move quickly to roll back the civil rights expansions put in place under his Democratic predecessors, wanted to act decisively because of two pending court cases that could have upheld the protections and pushed the government into further litigation.

But Ms. DeVos initially resisted signing off and told Mr. Trump that she was uncomfortable because of the potential harm that rescinding the protections could cause transgender students, according to three Republicans with direct knowledge of the internal discussions.

According to Breitbart News, however, Spicer minimized the dispute between DeVos and the president and Sessions.

“There’s no daylight between anybody — between the president, between any of the secretaries,” Spicer said during a press conference, adding:

I think there’s been some discussion between the timing of the issuance and recommendations — or between the exact wording. But as far as the conclusions go, I’ve made this clear and the president’s made it clear throughout the campaign that he is a firm believer of states’ rights and that certain issues like this are not best dealt with at the federal level.

Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Ryan Anderson applauded the Trump administration’s decision to reverse the Obama era transgender bathroom directive.

“The Trump administration today corrected Obama’s unlawful directives that violated the rights of students–particularly girls,” Anderson said in a statement. “This move returns authority over the issue to parents and teachers in the states, allowing them to work through to find a win-win solution for all students.”

Anderson further urged Congress to clarify that “sex” does not mean “gender identity” with regard to interpretation of civil rights statutes.

“This would ensure that unelected bureaucrats and judges would not be allowed to reshape policy that affects women and girls,” he added.

A very small proportion of Americans attempts to live as members of the opposite sex. Only about 1-in-2,400 Americans, for example, have changed their names from one sex to the other, according to a study of the 2010 census.

The American College of Pediatricians maintains that gender ideology is harmful to children and that transgendered children are psychologically confused and at risk for mental health disorders. The College states:

No one is born with a gender. Everyone is born with a biological sex. Gender (an awareness and sense of oneself as male or female) is a sociological and psychological concept; not an objective biological one…

A person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking. When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind not the body, and it should be treated as such.

These children suffer from gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria (GD), formerly listed as Gender Identity Disorder (GID), is a recognized mental disorder in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-V)…

“According to the DSM-V, as many as 98% of gender confused boys and 88% of gender confused girls eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty,” the College asserts. “Conditioning children into believing that a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse.”

Youth Trans Critical Professionals — a group of self-described “left-leaning, open-minded, and pro-gay rights” professionals, says it is risky to affirm young people who claim to be transgender and provide them with hormonal and surgical treatments to change their bodies.

“Our concern is with medical transition for children and youth,” say Youth Trans Critical Professionals on their website. “We feel that unnecessary surgeries and/or hormonal treatments which have not been proven safe in the long-term represent significant risks for young people.”

“Policies that encourage — either directly or indirectly — such medical treatment for young people who may not be able to evaluate the risks and benefits are highly suspect, in our opinion,” says the organization, which is composed of psychologists, social workers, doctors, and other professionals.

The professionals express “alarm” that, because of the current trendiness of being transgendered, many young people have decided they are a member of the opposite sex simply as a result of “binges” on social media sites. They describe a process of transgender activists recruiting these young people for their “cult.”

“There is evidence that vulnerable young people are being actively recruited and coached on such sites to believe that they are trans,” the professionals say.

Despite such potential mental health problems associated with gender confusion, children who claim to be the opposite sex are no longer legally permitted to see a therapist to receive “conversion therapy” in some states. Youth Trans Critical Professionals sees such state prohibitions as dangerous since they may block the process of critical thinking and evaluation of the young person regarding the reasons why he or she desires to become a transgender member of the opposite sex.

“While the sentiment behind this legislation is laudable, in some cases, it is being interpreted to mean that therapists cannot explore gender identity with a youth who is professing to be trans,” argue the professionals. “This would mean we can’t ask why; we can’t explore underlying mental health issues; we can’t consider the symbolic nature of the gender dysphoria; and we can’t look at possible confounding issues such as social media use or social contagion.”


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