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Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions fighting over transgender guidelines

Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions fighting over transgender guidelines
Betsy DeVosPhoto: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are reportedly at odds over a decision to rescind transgender student protections.

The New York Times is reporting that Sessions wanted to rescind guidelines from the Obama Administration’s Departments of Justice and Education that interpret Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 as banning discrimination against transgender students as a form of sex discrimination. The guidelines, in the form of a “Dear Colleague” letter, implied a threat to remove funding from schools that did not treat transgender students equally and did not allow them to use the right bathrooms.

DeVos reportedly opposed the move, citing high suicide rates among transgender students as a concern. Both DeVos and Sessions needed to consent to the new guidelines because they were jointly issued by the two departments. Trump sided with Sessions in the dispute.

Choosing not to defy Trump, DeVos ultimately relented, according to three anonymous sources cited in the New York Times article.

A draft copy of the letter says that they are rescinding the guidelines because they are supposedly confusing to schools. “School administrators, parents and students have expressed varying views on the legal issues arising in this setting. They have also struggled to understand and apply the statements of policy and guidance.”

The draft letter does include language requiring schools to prevent anti-trans bullying. “Schools must ensure that transgender students, like all students, are able to learn in a safe environment.”

While Trump has a history of homophobic and transphobic statements, he also supported transgender people’s rights to use the bathroom. “There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go. They use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate,” he said last April. He later changed his position after criticism from other Republicans.

But the Trump administration has governed from the far right on social issues, appointing social conservatives to many key civil rights positions.

White House Press Secretary denied reports of strife between Sessions and DeVos. “There is no daylight between anybody, between the president, between any of the secretaries,” he said, saying that DeVos is “100 percent” in favor of the new guidelines.

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