GLSEN Statement on DeVos Refusal to Commit to Enforcing Federal Protections

GLSEN Statement on DeVos Testimony

Media Contact:

Cathy Renna 917-757-6123

New York, NY (May 25, 2017) – While presenting the Department of Education's requested budget, which includes $150 million in public funds to be spent on sending students to private schools, Secretary DeVos left little doubt that she would not intervene if states allowed discrimination. GLSEN's Executive Director, Eliza Byard, and Director of Public Policy, Nathan Smith, released the following statements: 

"It is appalling that Secretary DeVos could not name a single example of discrimination that would disqualify a school from receiving federal funds," said Eliza Byard, GLSEN Executive Director. "Equality of opportunity for every child is a bedrock American commitment. Living up to that promise is an ongoing investment. Any betrayal of this commitment in the name of “states’ rights” and “local control” is a shameful stain on our society and the antithesis of true education leadership. No child in this country should be abandoned because they are disabled, LGBTQ, black or brown, Muslim, an immigrant, because their family is poor, or because they are ‘different’ in any other way.

"Painful, damaging discrimination against children is taking place daily in our schools. More than half of LGBTQ students have experienced discrimination at school. Last year, more than 16,000 families turned to the Department of Education for help when their children were hurt by discrimination of all kinds. Is Secretary DeVos truly prepared to turn away from addressing instances of discrimination, in violation of the law?” 

"Allowing discrimination is not a “states’ right,” as Secretary DeVos suggests," said Nathan Smith, GLSEN Director of Public Policy. "Discrimination of any kind against students has no place in publicly-funded schools or programs. The U.S. Department of Education itself is charged by Congress with civil rights enforcement responsibilities, and has a vital role to play in stepping up for students who lack the voice or resources to stand up for themselves.

“Abundant research and experience establishes that all students—LGBTQ youth, youth of color, girls, and students with disabilities, and more— thrive in classrooms that respect, protect, and include them fully. Not surprisingly, students' self-esteem and academic achievements suffer in schools that passively allow or actively engage in discrimination, the effects of which can cause lasting harm to individuals and communities for decades. Nothing in yesterday’s testimony by Secretary DeVos or her FY18 education budget proposal reflects the kind of commitment and investment that all of our students need and deserve. "