Education Opportunity Network

Education Opportunity Network -

DeVos Denies Students’ Civil Rights, Locks Out Teachers. But She’s The Victim?

A favorite tactic of the rightwing political establishment is to claim they are being victimized when those who’ve had their civil rights or their political voices stifled by rightwing policies make their grievances known and advocate for change.

It’s a clever way to turn blatant discrimination into a “freedom” and undermine the right to protest.

It appears US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been well schooled in this rhetorical trick.

Shortly after news reports that long-time Republican spinmeister Frank Luntz had been brought in to school DeVos on how to talk about controversial education policies without igniting the ire of parents, teachers, and voters, she played the “victim” card in saying criticisms of her actions as secretary have been “hurtful.”

“[It’s] hurtful to me when I’m criticized for not upholding the rights of students, the civil rights of students,” she told Politico. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

For someone who is one of the wealthiest people in America and who is so influential of the ruling party to express vulnerability seems disingenuous, to say the least. It becomes all the more preposterous amidst the recent actions of the department she leads to undo progress in civil rights and undermine democracy.

In her first year as secretary, DeVos has established a consistent pattern of first delaying then eventually curtailing her department’s duties to uphold the civil rights of students. And despite her role as a government official, she’s demonstrated little interest in hearing what the public thinks about these actions. Teachers, parents, and students who recently showed up at the Department of Education to express their dissent were locked out.

Denying the Rights of Transgender Students

Victims of DeVos’s education department include transgender students who want the freedom to use school bathroom facilities that correspond with their gender preferences.

This was their right under the Obama administration, and courts in at least three states – Wisconsin, Virginia, and Maine – have ruled that federal codes enforced by Title IX protect the rights of these students.

But beginning a year ago, DeVos’s education department decided it didn’t like these laws, began to deny their enforcement fell in its jurisdiction, and dismissed complaints from students who claimed arbitrary school rules were forcing them into situations that made them feel uncomfortable or subjected them to bullying.

Now, the department has officially announced it “won’t investigate or take action on any complaints filed by transgender students who are banned from restrooms that match their gender identity,” BuzzFeed reported.

While protecting transgender students when they are “penalized or harassed” is still “prohibited,” according to a department spokesperson, those prohibitions apparently no longer extend to bathrooms.

Since when did people’s rights end at the bathroom door?

Leaving Minority Students Unprotected

DeVos and her department have also signaled their intentions to ignore their duties to take on racial disparities in special education and school discipline policies.

Numerous studies have shown that black and brown school children are disproportionally identified as “learning disabled.” Other studies have found the opposite is true. But it seems reasonable that given the evidence that discrimination – of some kind – against nonwhite students in special education occurs, schools should devote resources to identify and address racial bias in their programs when it shows up.

That is what the Obama administration ruled when it required states to look for racial disparities in special education programs and devote a portion of their federally funded resources to ensure fairness in the identification, placement, and discipline of those students.

The new guidelines were to go into effect this month, giving states a full year to prepare, but DeVos and her department have now issued a two-year delay for “public comment.”

State leaders overseeing special education, who have been preparing to comply with these rules for months, say “they want the rule kept in place,” according to Education Week.

But much in the same way DeVos and her department first delayed and then dropped enforcements of transgender student rights, before eventually announcing a complete denial to enforce them, it’s not hard to imagine this “delay” in special education guidance is the forerunner to eventually abandoning the rules altogether.

Blocking and Locking Out Dissent

DeVos’s troubling history of political influence and her actions as secretary have made her President Trump’s most disliked cabinet member, and she’s constantly confronted with protests wherever she goes.

To shield her from public interaction, DeVos is escorted by federal marshals, an unprecedented security measure at great cost to the taxpayer. Her publically released schedule routinely omits many of the events and meetings she participates in. A recent trip she took to Indianapolis was completely “covert.” And many of the public events where she speaks have been before audiences that align with her political views.

The latest tactic to guard DeVos from the public was to lock the doors of the Department of Education.

Recently when leaders of two national teachers’ unions and 50-odd members representing a coalition of education and civil rights groups tried to deliver 80,000 report cards assessing DeVos’s performance, they were locked out.

Close to 90 percent of the report cards filled out by educators and public school activists gave DeVos an F, according to Education Week.  “A common theme: that DeVos was not doing her job because she appears not to care about public schools.”

“We were locked out,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers told Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post. “We asked for an appointment, but they locked us out instead.”

The doors are normally open 24 hours a day, Strauss reported.

DeVos Threatens Our Democracy, Our Future

A year ago, shortly after DeVos took office amidst a storm of controversy, a well-known conservative cartoonist depicted her as a victim of civil rights abuse by inserting her image substituted for Ruby Bridges, the first black student to attend racially integrated schools in New Orleans in 1960, in a cartoon rendition of Norman Rockwell’s famous painting “The Problem We All Live With.”

The false equivalency of a billionaire white woman able to buy her way into a US Cabinet position to a six-year-old black girl who helped desegregate New Orleans public schools sparked a firestorm of media outrage.

But it’s business as usual for Republicans.

People like DeVos are not victims of anything. She and the rightwing political machine funded by the Koch Brothers want to get rid of public education because they don’t believe in civil rights and democracy. These radical factions have made public schools one of their top targets, a progressive plum at least as important, if not more so, as Medicare and Social Security.

Speaking before the locked doors of the Department of Education, Keron Blair, co-director of the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, declared the protestors were there to speak out against DeVos’s “deliberate and stated purpose” to undermine her department’s mission and dismantle public education.

“Betsy DeVos and her agenda are a legitimate threat to our democracy,” Blair said, “We will not stand idly by while she dismantles public education and threatens our future.”

  • james Fields says:

    The AmWay woman is now the Trump education scam way woman. Does she own or have interest in the company Trump wants to use for food stamp benefits?

    February 15, 2018 at 4:09 pm
    • Dan Ragland says:

      The only way these people will ever get it, is if they start getting prosecuted and have to go to prison. I am sick of these scumbags.

      February 15, 2018 at 4:40 pm
  • Janet Hudgins says:

    Trump himself says private schools gave him a masterful education and that alone should be fair warning that neoliberalism and the privatization of public institutions is a disaster. Destroying public schools is one thing, destroying young lives with crazed ideology is criminal.

    February 15, 2018 at 4:15 pm
  • Jeff Briant says:

    Oh you’re so full of shit you can be smelled right from this webpage! Literally every conceivable thing you mention is exactly what Liberals have done! No one…NO ONE wants Transgenders in our kids schools. No one! You libs are so incredibly mentally twisted that have no sense of reality. No common sense and when it comes to victimhood no one plays it harder than you weak minded little mama’s boys and girls that choose to believe society owes you snowflakes special rights because you play with being Gay and Trans like new toys. You just expect others to bend backwards for you if for no other reason than the fact that too many idiots have done it so far. Well that shit must stop immediately because THIS is the scourge of society and is literally ruining the fabric of our country. Cry babies taking to a blog to tell others how it should be made easier and special for them is a sign of complete breakdown if you actualy believe what you write you could be a mentally ill person. Americans want change from this and all things Obama. You gays and gay advocates will be squashed out. Rightfully so.

    February 15, 2018 at 4:25 pm
    • pixie6 says:

      It is you Jeff Briant that is mentally ill, Americans do not want anything that is done under the name of hideous Trump, he is a stain on anything American. President Obama was the best of and for The United States of America.

      February 15, 2018 at 7:01 pm
    • Louise Calderone says:

      Public schools are for all children, period. You can create private schools for your children, but do not try to take my tax money for your private schools (and don’t increase my taxes through your tax deductions for private schools.)

      February 15, 2018 at 9:53 pm
  • s says:

    Jeff Briant, You are an ignorant waste of flesh that IS the problem in our society!! God help us if you have reproduced and spread your mutated, ugly genes! You sound like a crybaby because people are demanding equal rights and your itty bitty ego is threatened! I am not in any of these protected classes and I’m against discrimination! The only discrimination I have is for ignorant people like YOU that give the human race a bad name! Run along now and back to your mutated friends!

    February 15, 2018 at 4:51 pm
    • Susan says:

      Jeff Briant is a troll. Best to ignore people like him.

      February 16, 2018 at 12:45 am
  • George Ross, proud to be a teacher in public school says:

    The rudeness from Jeff Briant is one of the serious things gone wrong in our culture. Our politicians (some) are rude beyond belief. Trump is so rude and crude. My job as a teacher involves me teaching manners every single day as a result of our kids living in a rude culture. I am not accepting this, At least not in the music room K-2 grade. Some classes haven’t gotten the message yet and as a result they miss out on games and playing instruments because I’ve had to stop, sit and talk about their rudeness. Many classes have caught on….and the manners are becoming wonderful…. like when America was great…… which was from it’s inception up until the incompetent, unexperienced, broken down, rude, crude business man took over. Sorry. You are rude and thus I can’t hear anything you have said.

    February 15, 2018 at 5:00 pm
  • Jeff Bryant says:

    I’m am blocking an further comments from Jeff Briant. That is all.

    February 15, 2018 at 5:59 pm
    • slowracer1 says:

      Fantastic! Could you please block yourself from ever commenting again as well?

      February 15, 2018 at 6:32 pm
    • Mary says:

      Thank you.

      February 15, 2018 at 6:41 pm
    • LIttle John says:

      That’s because you are such a wimp and a complete pussy!

      February 15, 2018 at 7:40 pm
  • Sario says:

    JB is such hate filled person, so sad.

    February 15, 2018 at 6:36 pm
  • Brenda Boudinot says:

    When all is said and done, kids and kids, Every single one deserves protection, and action to be taken against harassment and bullies. DeVos is just one, but the rich white cow should be the first to be disciplined. By the courts, by our laws. DeVos let me hurt your feelings please. Rich Twit with a serious flawed agenda supported by the Koch Bros. Amway products are overpriced and not very effective. Are you selling them to the janitorial services at the schools too? I hope you are as it would be a violation under the law.

    February 15, 2018 at 6:42 pm
  • Kay Marshall says:

    Did Betsy get a provision in the tax bill that made private schools down to kindergarden deductible?

    February 15, 2018 at 7:33 pm
  • Jeff Bryant says:

    Okay I’m going to block any and all posts related to Jeff Briant’s hate rant above. These comments are blocking any constructive discussion. If you have a problem with that action or think it diminishes my masculinity, tough. Go rant on your own damn site.

    February 15, 2018 at 7:55 pm
  • Judy Liszewski says:

    As a retired public school teacher, I have seen the push of racial discrimination in special education hurt children of color. In the corporation where I worked, children of color were not being tested because we couldn’t have too many children of color. Boys were not being tested as well. So what has happened because “we” are only looking at data and race, students who need academic help are not being serviced. A child, no matter race or gender, should be evaluated on his/her merits and abilities or lack of same and if extra help is needed (special education) to help that child be successful and become a responsible adult there should not be a quota on a certain “group”. Education’s purpose should be to create an atmosphere of learning success for all children no matter what road is being taken.

    February 15, 2018 at 8:03 pm

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