Democrats grill DeVos on school shooting response, transgender students

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

By Juana Summers, CNN

Washington (CNN) Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday addressed the deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas, telling House lawmakers the shooting “was only the most recent, devastating reminder that our nation must come together to address the underlying issues that create a culture of violence.”

“Our commitment to every student’s success is one we must renew every day, but first we must ensure our children are safe at school,” she said.

DeVos also said the school safety commission she oversees, which was created in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting earlier this year, “looks forward to delivering best practices and findings by year’s end” and gave lawmakers some details of the group’s most recent meeting last week. She described that meeting as “one of the first broader listening sessions” and said members heard from parents of students that had been killed in school shootings.

She stressed that the “primary responsibility for the physical security of schools rests with states and local communities, and made no mention of gun measures or reforms.


Betsy DeVos pushes back against criticism over “60 Minutes” interview, March 12, 2018

DeVos’s Capitol Hill testimony Tuesday marked her fifth time testifying before congressional lawmakers and comes on the heels of a trip to New York in which she was criticized for not visiting any public schools. Instead, DeVos toured two Orthodox Jewish schools and spoke in support of public funding for religious schools.

While DeVos was questioned by several lawmakers about school safety in the wake of another deadly shooting, the issue was not the overwhelming focus of the broad hearing. DeVos took questions on a wide variety of topics including her response to teacher walkouts across the nation, the agency’s Office for Civil Rights and her commitment to the rights of LGBTQ students.

She was pressed by Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott — the committee’s top Democrat — over whether she had approved state education plans that violate the law. Scott repeatedly pressed DeVos on plans where school grades don’t include subgroup performance, suggesting that allowed states to ignore disadvantaged groups.

“All of the plans that I have approved follow what the law requires and it will, we will continue to do so,” DeVos said.

“How do you address an achievement gap if subgroup performance isn’t addressed,” Scott asked DeVos.

At one point during the hearing Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson asked DeVos if she was aware she was “resegregating” the nation’s schools by expanding school choice programs, and in turn, transferring federal funds away from public schools.

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