Education Secretary Betsy DeVos originally opposed a draft of the Trump administration’s plan for withdrawing guidance protecting transgender children in public schools, sources told CNN Wednesday.
Despite DeVos’ opposition, the Trump administration issued guidance as expected that revoked protections outlined in 2016 by former President Barack Obama.
When the new guidance was issued Wednesday night, DeVos was publicly on board, though she added in a statement: “We have a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment. This is not merely a federal mandate, but a moral obligation no individual, school, district or state can abdicate. At my direction, the department’s Office for Civil Rights remains committed to investigating all claims of discrimination, bullying and harassment against those who are most vulnerable in our schools.”
But a source outside of government who said he was familiar with DeVos’ thinking on the issue told CNN that “this is not what Betsy wanted to do.” The source said DeVos first communicated this to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then was summoned to the White House on Tuesday for a meeting with Sessions and Trump, where she was told to sign on to the move.
DeVos reminded Trump that both he and she had publicly promised to protect all students, the source said, and that she felt this was not in accordance with those promises. She also asked for additional language to put in the letter that affirmed students would still be protected and the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights would investigate issues.
Asked if DeVos was put in a hard spot, the source said Wednesday, “When the President tells you to do something you don’t want to do, that is a hard spot to be in.”
A second source confirmed there was disagreement and DeVos pushed back, saying she was concerned about the pace and some insensitivity toward the children. But she recognized that the President makes the decisions.
She also recognized that the administration was motivated by an upcoming Supreme Court case that deals with a transgender student and bathroom use.
The question for DeVos, the second source said, was how to unwind the previous guidance without doing harm to kids and making them feel like they were unprotected. DeVos plans to continue speaking about this issue with stakeholders, the source added.
In response to a question earlier Wednesday about a New York Times report saying DeVos and Sessions had opposed one another on the transgender guidance, White House press secretary Sean Spicer denied any “daylight” between the two Cabinet members.