WASHINGTON — Today, more than 700 parents of transgender children sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos condemning her failure to protect transgender students and calling on her to recognize the basic human and civil rights of transgender young people in our nation's schools. The letter, signed by parents from 47 states and Washington, D.C., was organized by the Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ), the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer ( LGBTQ ) civil rights organization, and its Parents for Transgender Equality Council, a coalition of the nation's leading parent-advocates working for equality and fairness for transgender people.
DeVos's tenure has been marred from her first days as secretary by repeated attempts to undermine the rights of transgender students. Just weeks after assuming her duties, DeVos and the Department of Education joined with Donald Trump and U.S. Department of Justice officials in rescinding lifesaving guidance promoting the protection of transgender students. Reports recently surfaced that her department's Office for Civil Rights is also turning away transgender students and their families who have filed discrimination complaints under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
"When Betsy DeVos rescinded protective guidance for transgender students, she not only turned her back on my son, Jay, but also on our family and families like ours across the country," said Sarah Watson, co-chair of HRC's Parents for Transgender Equality Council. "Every child deserves the same protections as their peers — this should be Betsy Devos's priority as the nation's education secretary. No child should fear going to school because their teachers and administrators lack clear guidance on how to support and respect every student."
"My son, Max, is not a political pawn," said Amber Briggle, co-chair of HRC's Parents for Transgender Equality Council. "He is simply a young boy hoping to learn and live. But because politicians like Donald Trump, Mike Pence and Betsy DeVos have chosen to target him and other transgender children for discrimination, our families are standing up to defend them from these vicious attacks. We won't relent until our children — and all children — are safe from discrimination, harassment and violence."
Said Ellen Kahn, Director of HRC's Children Youth and Families Program: "Parents across this country are heartbroken and enraged by the unconscionable disregard shown them by Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education. The department's Office of Civil Rights should be a beacon of hope for families, and instead it is now a black hole of neglect. Shame on Secretary DeVos for turning her back on some of the most vulnerable young people in our public schools."
The parents, speaking for the thousands of families of transgender children across the country, write, "As parents of transgender children, we have witnessed firsthand the discrimination that transgender youth face on a daily basis simply because of who they are. Our children are at a significantly increased risk for depression, anxiety and suicide. Sadly, the discrimination that causes this distress emerges even among professionals who are tasked with educating the next generation and preparing them for the world. We will not have our children left behind and their lives put at risk as a result of this bigotry."
A groundbreaking new survey by HRC and the University of Connecticut of more than 12,000 LGBTQ youth found that 50 percent of transgender, non-binary or otherwise non-cisgender youth never use the restroom in school because they are prevented from using facilities that align with their gender identity. Only 18 percent report that they are always referred to with the correct pronouns at school, and only 30 percent are able to completely dress and express themselves in a way that matches their gender identity.
Last year, when the Trump-Pence Administration rescinded lifesaving guidance promoting the protection of transgender students, HRC's Parents for Transgender Equality council sent a letter to the administration from more than a thousand parents demanding that the Obama-era guidance be preserved.
To read the full letter released today, click here assets2.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/DeVos-Parent-Letter-Feb2018.pdf .
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.