New Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos: Promises Made, Promises to be Kept

February 07, 2017

Earlier today, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the new United States Secretary of Education.

As we have done with many other Cabinet nominees over the years, the Anti-Defamation League had sent a letter to Senators on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions to urge members to ask Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos a range of questions at her confirmation hearings.  The ADL letter drew on the League’s deep expertise in confronting bullying, working to support LGBT equality, and educating about appropriate parameters for religion in public schools.  And Committee members did ask a number of questions on these topics.

Here are responses that Secretary DeVos provided.  We and our coalition partners will work to ensure that the new Secretary’s commitments are kept.

On Bullying:

“I am opposed to bullying and harassment of any student for any reason. Schools should be a place of learning and improving oneself, and, if confirmed, I will work with the First Lady to speak out against bullying and harassment and encourage states and school districts to improve policies and procedures to prevent and deter bullying and harassment. I believe the role of the Department of Education is to help states and local school districts enforce the law and improve education for all students.”

“Bullying and harassment of any student should not be tolerated. Schools should be an environment of learning and, if confirmed, I will work with the First Lady, who has indicated she intends to make this issue a priority, and state and local school officials to prevent bullying and harassment. If a school is failing to protect any student from bullying and harassment and a complaint is made to OCR, I would expect that office to investigate as required under the law. While the focus on bullying is important, it is also important to focus on encouraging positive behavior. Simply put, let’s share best practices which encourage students to be kind, civil, and treat everyone with dignity and respect. “

On LGBT Protection and Equality:

“Enforcement of civil rights laws are an important responsibility of the Secretary of Education. If confirmed, I will work with state departments of education and local educational agencies to ensure civil rights of all students are protected. This administration takes its responsibility to ensure equal access to education seriously and is committed to working with state and local school officials to root out any vestiges of discrimination.”

“If confirmed, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) would have my strong and continued support in carrying out its statutory obligations to enforce the civil rights laws under its jurisdiction.”

I oppose discrimination of any kind against students. If confirmed, I will enforce all civil rights laws under the Department of Education’s jurisdiction to protect students’ access to equal educational opportunity.

On Religion in Schools:

“I do not believe in imposing my faith on others and, if confirmed, I will implement and respect the law, including provisions prohibiting religious instruction in public schools.”

“Parents or guardians should have the opportunity to send their children to the schools they believe will best serve them, including a private, religious school, if that is their choice.”

“The United States Supreme Court long ago settled the question of whether or not it is appropriate for public dollars to be sent to private religious schools. As Secretary, I would not contradict their ruling.”

The Department of Education has a critical role to play in support of public education and on issues of equity for students. We will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that all students, no matter their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or national origin, will have equal access to high quality education.