Michigan Dem rips DeVos for not meeting with Nassar abuse victims

Michigan Dem rips DeVos for not meeting with Nassar abuse victims
© Stefani Reynolds

Rep. Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinFreshman Democrats call on McConnell to hold vote on election reform bill Pro-trade group targets Democratic leadership in push for new NAFTA Seven key allies for Pelosi on impeachment MORE (D-Mich.) says she's "deeply disappointed" that Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates MORE declined to meet with survivors of abuse by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar while visiting the state, calling her decision akin to "ignoring" the problem of sexual abuse in schools.

In a statement to the Detroit Free Press, Slotkin said that she asked DeVos to meet with the survivors, only to be rebuffed by the secretary.

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“I asked Secretary DeVos why she wouldn’t meet with survivors of Nassar’s abuse — especially since she’s proposing significant changes to Title IX,” Slotkin told the newspaper, referring to abuse committed by Nassar, who was a sports physician at Michigan State University. 

"The secretary provided a long, legalistic response prepared by her attorneys as to why she couldn’t," she continued. "The truth is that if she can meet with me to talk about sexual assault on college campuses, she should be able to meet with Nassar survivors. As a leader and a Michigander, she should want to hear from them."

“I am deeply disappointed that Secretary DeVos — a Michigander and someone in a position of great leadership and authority to protect students’ safety and access to education — has never met with a survivor of Nassar’s abuse, a tragedy that has shaken the community to its core in our state. It appears she is ignoring the very lessons we have learned from the Nassar tragedy," Slotkin concluded.

In a written response to the congresswoman, DeVos said that Nassar's crimes were "unspeakable" but that she could not legally meet with Title IX advocates and survivors of the abuse.

"I want to thank you for your request that I meet with Michigan State University Title IX survivor-advocates to hear about their experience and how to prevent sexual assault on college campuses. However, as you are no doubt aware, the law prevents me from doing so at this time," the secretary wrote.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education responded to Slotkin's criticism in a statement to The Hill on Wednesday, accusing the congresswoman of politicizing Nassar's abuse and pointing to two open investigations, one involving Title IX protections and another involving the Clery Act, which prohibited the secretary from meeting with interested parties under ethical guidelines.

“Rep. Slotkin needs to stop using Nassar’s heinous crimes as banter for a press release. By all accounts from those in the room, this hyperbolic press release does not reflect the actual tone or tenor of yesterday’s meeting," press secretary Liz Hill wrote in an email.