Sen. Al Franken co-signed a letter along with five other U.S. Senators seeking answers from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos following DeVos’ decision to rescind guidance to schools about protecting transgender students in the nation’s public schools system. In 2016, the Obama administration issued a “Dear Colleague” letter to schools providing guidance on how to apply Title IX protections to transgender and gender nonconforming students. In February, DeVos’ department announced it was rescinding that letter and the guidance to schools.
The letter to DeVos, authored by Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, and cosigned by Franken, Sens.Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Margaret Wood Hassan of New Hampshire, was sent on Friday, Mar. 10. It states, in part:
By revoking the transgender guidance, you have put the safety and well-being of transgender students at risk. In a statement defending your decision, you argued that protections for transgender students are “best solved at the state and local level” rather than at the federal level because schools “can find- and in many cases have found – solutions that protect all students.” Contrary to your beliefs, there is an abundance of evidence that schools do not always create safe learning environments that allow transgender students to attend classes and participate in schools activities free from discrimination and harassment. Heartbreakingly, more than a third of transgender students report being subject of harassment or bullying at school. Sixty percent of transgender youth report being forced to use bathrooms inconsistent with their gender identity And shockingly, about half of transgender children have seriously contemplated suicide, while one-quarter report attempting suicide over their lifetimes. These students deserve every effort to protect them.
The letter criticizes DeVos’ decision and asks her to clarify how her department will protect transgender students from harassment, bullying, and discrimination. Specifically, the Senators want to know specifically how DeVos will protect transgender students, whether DeVos believes that local school districts can ignore federal laws, how her department will evaluate and investigate discrimination, how the decision to revoke the guidance was made, and whether DeVos consulted with transgender leaders before making her decision.
All students — no matter their race, religion, disability, country of origin, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity — deserve to have their civil rights vigorously enforced and access to education free from discrimination fiercely protected. We will never stop fighting for our students to have a safe environment to learn and we expect no less from the US Department of Education.
Here’s the full letter: