Report Finds LGBTQ Rights Cases Are Stalling Under Education Secretary DeVos

LGBTQ students who experience discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity are less likely to be protected under the Trump administration’s Education Department, a new report by the liberal think tank Center for American Progress found. In a July 29 report, the organization analyzed discrimination complaints based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and sexual orientation-related sex stereotyping under Title IX. The new report used the Education Department’s data to analyze how LGBTQ students fared in the first two years of President Donald Trump’s administration. The policy centerfound that the Trump administration was more likely to dismiss claims of discrimination filed by LGBTQ students and less likely than the Obama administration to investigate them. Under the Trump administration, complaints were more than nine times less likely to result in schools being required to remedy the reported discrimination. The report found that just 2.4 percent of LGBTQ-related complaints resulting in corrective action under the current administration compared to 22.4 percent under the Obama administration.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos revoked a 2016 guidance protecting students on the basis of their gender identity when she assumed her role in 2017. The revocation was the first in a series of measures by the Trump administration against LGBTQ youth.

In 2018, the Education Department announced it was no longer investigating complaints from transgender students. DeVos, however, claimed that the department continues to enforce protections for LGBTQ students who are bullied, penalized, or harassed for not conforming to sex-based stereotypes, The New York Times reported.

The Center for American Progress said that is not true. “Secretary DeVos has made clear her disregard for the safety and well-being of LGBTQ students, both in her public remarks and the policies she has advanced during her tenure,” the Center for American Progress wrote in its report. “The data clearly show that the OCR [Office for Civil Rights] is failing to take action to protect the Civil Rights of LGBTQ students.”

The report found that 61.6 percent of LGBTQ-related complaints were dismissed between November 2010 and June 2018. When the OCR did investigate complaints, most of the investigations found no evidence of a violation.

However, complaint dismissals jumped from 65.4 percent during the Obama administration to 91.5 percent during the Trump administration. The ORC under the Obama administration, at the lowest estimate, was 54 percent more likely to investigate complaints than under the Trump administration.

In July, the Education Department released data that claimed students who filed Civil Rights complaints under DeVos were “served more efficiently and effectively than students who filed Civil Rights complaints during the previous administration.”

The department said that on average it resolved almost twice the number of Civil Rights complaints per year compared to the prior eight fiscal years. It also claimed there was a 60 percent increase in the number of resolutions that forced schools to change in order to protect students’ Civil Rights. The department alleged that it found the same trend when analyzing the complaint data for LGBTQ students. “These data were selectively compiled by a left-wing interest group to tell an ideological story,” Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill told The North Star. “No one should mistake this as unbiased. This department vigorously protects the Civil Rights of all students and will continue to do so to the fullest extent of the law.”

Hill said that the current administration averages 11 resolutions with change per year in cases of sexual harassment against males and females under Title IX, and discrimination against transgender youth. She added that the Obama administration averaged just 9 resolutions with change per year.

Department officials admitted to The North Star that the Obama administration did better when analyzing how all cases were resolved more broadly, but attributed it to the administration resolving fewer cases.

“A parent wants to know: if their child’s Civil Rights are being violated, will OCR provide for a change?” Hill said. “Under this administration, it is more likely that it will. The numbers speak for themselves if assessed objectively.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.