Reports: Betsy DeVos’ ultimatum over transgender bathrooms

Posted at 11:42 PM, Feb 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-22 23:42:58-05

WASHINGTON — Secretary of Education and West Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos initially opposed President Trump’s decision to withdraw the previous administration’s guidance on transgender bathroom use in public schools, according to reports.

The Obama administration told public schools districts and colleges last May that it interprets “sex discrimination” under Title IX, a federal law that bans sex discrimination in schools, to include claims based on gender identity. This allows transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender they identify with if it doesn’t match the sex they were born as.

The New York Times published that DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions disagreed during the “bathroom debate,” saying that Sessions wanted to roll back the civil rights expansions because of two pending court cases that could have upheld the protections. DeVos reportedly told President Trump she was uncomfortable with rolling them back because of the potential harm that it could cause transgender students.

The Times cites three Republicans close to the internal discussions. Withdrawing the guidelines could only be done with DeVos’s approval. Sessions failed in pushing DeVos to relent, so he reportedly took the matter to the president, who sided with his attorney general, telling DeVos Tuesday that he wanted her to drop her opposition. Facing the alternatives of defying the president or resigning, she ultimately agreed.

DeVos issued a statement Wednesday evening that said the administration has “a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment.”

In a “Dear Colleague” letter addressed to public schools, the Trump administration said the Obama era guidance didn’t contain legal analysis nor explain how their position is consistent with the language in Title IX. It also said the guidance didn’t undergo any formal process. The letter doesn’t offer new guidance but says there must be “due regard” for the role of states and local districts.

Secretary DeVos reportedly asked for additional language to be put in the letter that would affirm students would still be protected, expressing concern that people otherwise might interpret it as removing protections.