DeVos defends controversial guidance on transgender students

Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosFailed charter schools cost federal government almost 5M in nine years: report Pelosi gets standing ovation at Kennedy Center Honors On The Money: Economy adds 266K jobs in strong November | Lawmakers sprint to avoid shutdown | Appropriators to hold crucial talks this weekend | Trump asks Supreme Court to halt Deutsche Bank subpoenas MORE on Wednesday defended her agency's move to roll back nationwide guidance meant to protect transgender students.

During a hearing in front of the House Education Committee, civil rights subcommittee Chairwoman Suzanne BonamiciSuzanne Marie BonamiciPelosi heading to Madrid for UN climate change convention Scientists join Democrats in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule Overnight Energy: Democrats call for Ross to resign over report he threatened NOAA officials | Commerce denies report | Documents detail plan to decentralize BLM | Lawmakers demand answers on bee-killing pesticide MORE (D-Ore.) asked the secretary if she knew that harassment and discrimination can lead to poor academic performance and depression for transgender students when she rescinded Obama-era regulations that extended Title IX rights to the students and allowed them to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity.

DeVos sidestepped the question at first, responding: “[The U.S. Office for Civil Rights] OCR is committed to ensuring all students have equal access to education free from discrimination—“

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Bonamici then cut her off, repeating the question.

“Sorry, I would really like answer,” the congresswoman said. “Students and families need to know this.”

“Did you know, when you rolled back the guidance, that the stress of harassment and discrimination can lead to lower attendance and grades as well as depression for transgender students?”

“I do know that,” DeVos responded. “But I will say again that OCR is committed to ensuring all students have access to their education free from discrimination.”

The Trump Education and Justice departments in 2017 rolled back the earlier federal guidance, arguing that the guidelines did not fall under Title IX’s sex-based discrimination protections. The move was met with sharp backlash from LGBTQ advocates and civil liberties groups.

Bonamici also asked DeVos if she knew about recent data from the American Association of Pediatrics that she said revealed “alarming levels of attempted suicide among transgender youth.”

“I am aware of that data,” DeVos responded.

Bonamici later issued a statement saying she is “troubled” by the secretary’s answers.

“The Department of Education has a responsibility to protect all students, but she acknowledged that she moved forward with a plan to rollback protections for transgender students despite knowing that it would put them at risk,” Bonamici said. 

Department of Education spokesperson Liz Hill told The Hill in a statement that DeVos “is committed to protecting the civil rights of all students and ensuring each and every student has the ability to go to school in a safe and nurturing learning environment.”

Updated 3:35 p.m.