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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 10, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 10
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos meets with LGBT rights groups
Section One
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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos meets with LGBT rights groups

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos met with three LGBT groups on March 8 to discuss protections for Transgender students.

According to the Washington Blade, the meeting was set up by Equality Michigan, the state LGBT group in DeVos' home state, and included the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and GLSEN.

DeVos' office informed the groups on March 3 that she would see them.

Discussion consisted of two consecutive sessions. DeVos met first with Transgender families, and later with representatives from the three LGBT groups. The sessions reportedly lasted about an hour each. DeVos was accompanied by four other Education Department officials.

Stephanie White, executive director of Equality Michigan, said her organization sought the meeting to convey the 'profound negative consequences' of the withdrawal of the guidance protecting Transgender students.

'We also ensured that the secretary heard from transgender students and their parents directly about the impact of discrimination and harassment at school,' White said.

'We wanted her to understand that these are life-and-death issues for transgender young people across the country and that we will not waver or compromise in our commitment to ensuring that every student, regardless of their gender identity, is provided with equal protection and opportunity to thrive.'

NCTE President Mara Keisling said they got no firm policy commitments from DeVos, but that the encounter was 'a good first meeting' because 'it's always good when people are willing to sit down and talk, when people are willing to be told that what they did was really bad.'

'Right now, we're limited in what we can do with the federal government, but this was one thing we could do,' Keisling added.

'We could bring families, and that was really the important thing here. I think so many people were just outraged that they took a policy that had taken a decade or more to craft and do the groundwork, and then just threw it out in less a week of Attorney General Sessions being in office. He came into office and immediately started shooting at trans people, and she was only in office a couple weeks more than that.'

DeVos reportedly objected to the order rescinding Obama's protections but was ordered by Trump to go along.

Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN, said the LGBT groups addressed the immediate consequences of withdrawing the guidance and 'ways that she might be able to mitigate the pain, fear, and confusion that decision has caused.'

'Above all, we ensured that DeVos heard - directly from us - that we will not budge or compromise when it comes to the full support and protection that all of our children, including LGBTQ youth, deserve from this administration, from the Department of Education, and from its Office for Civil Rights,' Byard said.

In a statement, DeVos said she was 'grateful for the opportunity' to speak with families and LGBT rights supporters 'about their concerns, thoughts, fears, and suggestions.'

'Every school and every school leader has a moral responsibility to protect all students and ensure every child is respected and can learn in an accepting environment,' DeVos said.

'I remain committed to advocating for and fighting on behalf of all students. Today's meeting was compelling, moving, and welcomed, and part of an ongoing dialogue with families and students throughout the country.'

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