GLSEN on Catherine Lhamon Confirmation as Asst. Secretary for Civil Rights

GLSEN Applauds Confirmation of Catherine Lhamon as U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights

Today, the U.S. Senate approved the nomination of Catherine Lhamon as U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary to the Office for Civil Rights. In this role, Lhamon will be responsible for ensuring the civil rights of all students are protected, enforcing existing federal civil rights laws, and leading the Department of Education’s efforts to provide an equal opportunity to an education.

In response, GLSEN’s Interim Executive Director Melanie Willingham-Jaggers released the following statement:

“Catherine Lhamon’s lifelong experience protecting the civil rights of LGBTQ+ students will be invaluable as the U.S. Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. Lhamon has proven to be a fierce advocate for students’ civil rights and a champion for educators, administrators, and other stakeholders to prevent discrimination based on gender identity, transgender status, sex stereotypes, or sex characteristics, including intersex traits, and promote inclusive schools for all students.

The work of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is instrumental in ensuring that students’ rights are protected and that every student has a chance to thrive in their school. Lhamon has been a leader in defending transgender students’ equal protection from discrimination and has issued guidance to educators on the equal treatment of transgender students, jointly with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Lhamon has also improved OCR’s Civil Rights Data Collection by initiating collection of data on incidents of bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation. By improving data collection, Lhamon helped illuminate the scope of bullying based on sexual orientation and signaled to schools that these incidents were on par with other forms of bias-motivated violence that schools must work to prevent in order to protect students’ right to education.

Lhamon has also worked to improve how schools and colleges handle accusations of sexual assault and sexual harassment, expressly acknowledging that LGBTQ+ youth report high rates of sexual harassment and sexual violence. Under Lhamon’s leadership, OCR increased enforcement and provided guidance on schools’ responsibilities to address sexual violence.

Lhamon’s leadership in preventing unfair and punitive discipline is precisely what we need to make progress on these persistent inequities and protect all students’ civil and education rights. GLSEN looks forward to working with Catherine in this role.”