STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Democrats grill DeVos on school shooting response, transgender students

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday addressed the ...

Posted: May 23, 2018 8:46 AM
Updated: May 23, 2018 8:46 AM

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday addressed the deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas, telling House lawmakers the shooting "was only the most recent, devastating reminder that our nation must come together to address the underlying issues that create a culture of violence."

"Our commitment to every student's success is one we must renew every day, but first we must ensure our children are safe at school," she said.

DeVos also said the school safety commission she oversees, which was created in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting earlier this year, "looks forward to delivering best practices and findings by year's end" and gave lawmakers some details of the group's most recent meeting last week. She described that meeting as "one of the first broader listening sessions" and said members heard from parents of students that had been killed in school shootings.

She stressed that the "primary responsibility for the physical security of schools rests with states and local communities, and made no mention of gun measures or reforms.

DeVos's Capitol Hill testimony Tuesday marked her fifth time testifying before congressional lawmakers and comes on the heels of a trip to New York in which she was criticized for not visiting any public schools. Instead, DeVos toured two Orthodox Jewish schools and spoke in support of public funding for religious schools.

While DeVos was questioned by several lawmakers about school safety in the wake of another deadly shooting, the issue was not the overwhelming focus of the broad hearing. DeVos took questions on a wide variety of topics including her response to teacher walkouts across the nation, the agency's Office for Civil Rights and her commitment to the rights of LGBTQ students.

She was pressed by Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott -- the committee's top Democrat -- over whether she had approved state education plans that violate the law. Scott repeatedly pressed DeVos on plans where school grades don't include subgroup performance, suggesting that allowed states to ignore disadvantaged groups.

"All of the plans that I have approved follow what the law requires and it will, we will continue to do so," DeVos said.

"How do you address an achievement gap if subgroup performance isn't addressed," Scott asked DeVos.

At one point during the hearing Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson asked DeVos if she was aware she was "resegregating" the nation's schools by expanding school choice programs, and in turn, transferring federal funds away from public schools.

"You are resegregating our nation's schools. Are you aware that you are resegregating our nation's schools?" Wilson asked.

DeVos did not respond to the specific allegation, but said that she believed that giving parents choices allows them to have the opportunity to get their child into a school or educational environment that works better for them than the school they may be assigned to.

In another exchange, DeVos was asked by Colorado Democratic Rep. Jared Polis about her plans "to address LGBTQ discrimination and harassment in our schools," citing two different lawsuits. DeVos said she was "committed to protecting civil rights, as stated by civil rights law" but that courts had been "mixed" on transgender students.

Polis pressed DeVos, arguing that the rights of transgender students are protected by court precedent and the law.

DeVos again cited "mixed" court rulings and that Congress hasn't weighed in.

"I am not going to make up law at the Department of Education," she said.

DeVos also told lawmakers she believes individual schools should decide whether to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they believe students are undocumented, calling that "a school decision" and a "local community decision."

She added that "we have laws and we also are compassionate."

DeVos also faced questions over her department's handling of investigations into for-profit schools.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that DeVos wound down an investigative team at the Department of Education that had been established during the Obama administration, effectively ending inquiries into for-profit colleges where some of the agency's top staffers previously worked. The Education Department's spokesperson did not respond to CNN's request for comment for that story.

DeVos was pressed by California Rep. Susan Davis at Tuesday's hearing about how many people at the agency are looking at allegations of fraud in for-profit schools, DeVos said she did not know how many staffers were currently on that team.

She said though that the team "has been committed to this, is dedicated to this" and has been "augmented in order to ensure that they backlog that we inherited is able to be addressed as promptly as possible."

New Jersey's attorney general Gurbir Grewal wrote to DeVos, the Times reported, and alleged the agency had ignored requests from the state to work on behalf of students who were defrauded by the now-bankrupt Corinthian Colleges chain.

Huntsville
Clear
32° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 32°
Florence
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 36°
Fayetteville
Clear
32° wxIcon
Hi: 42° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 32°
Decatur
Clear
31° wxIcon
Hi: 42° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 31°
Scottsboro
Few Clouds
32° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 32°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 249524

Reported Deaths: 3578
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson33064500
Mobile19951362
Madison13596148
Tuscaloosa13246154
Montgomery12435236
Shelby1061677
Baldwin889098
Lee781466
Morgan686150
Etowah643966
Calhoun6430121
Marshall635355
Houston537738
DeKalb492236
Cullman451542
Limestone433345
St. Clair432555
Lauderdale422354
Elmore412964
Walker3710111
Talladega359354
Jackson329823
Colbert329642
Blount299740
Autauga278042
Franklin256434
Coffee248315
Dale236254
Chilton227438
Dallas226832
Russell22383
Covington220434
Escambia198931
Tallapoosa184391
Chambers177950
Pike159914
Clarke159819
Marion143636
Winston135123
Lawrence131636
Pickens125718
Geneva12438
Marengo123124
Bibb119617
Barbour117811
Butler117842
Randolph104921
Cherokee103424
Hale97831
Fayette92516
Washington92219
Clay92024
Henry8756
Lowndes80229
Monroe79011
Cleburne77814
Macon74522
Crenshaw72030
Bullock70219
Perry6906
Lamar6898
Conecuh68814
Wilcox64218
Sumter58622
Greene42818
Choctaw42713
Coosa3544
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 374493

Reported Deaths: 4602
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby48561673
Davidson43546421
Knox19358150
Rutherford18248163
Hamilton17311153
Williamson1168080
Sumner10123137
Out of TN811056
Wilson777980
Montgomery691585
Sullivan6641101
Washington6272108
Maury610667
Putnam600982
Blount575261
Bradley546935
Madison5445111
Sevier512133
Unassigned488822
Robertson389553
Tipton375339
Hamblen360761
Gibson332065
Dyer325451
Greene324872
Anderson310729
Dickson300434
Coffee288642
Carter286057
Bedford285132
Lawrence276134
Obion271751
McMinn267955
Cumberland266536
Roane243929
Warren243120
Jefferson236533
Loudon234819
Fayette230239
Hardeman227837
Monroe223244
Weakley221737
Franklin217935
Lauderdale208023
Hawkins204034
Wayne194610
Trousdale191512
Henderson190134
Macon186028
White180818
Rhea180132
Hardin180025
Marshall179622
Carroll178534
Lincoln166217
Haywood165830
Cheatham165317
Cocke165330
Campbell160323
Henry159319
Overton156435
Giles150249
Smith147720
Johnson144923
McNairy142433
Fentress124420
Hickman121619
DeKalb120422
Bledsoe11895
Lake11786
Crockett117126
Marion112219
Scott11197
Grainger105017
Chester104221
Decatur96112
Unicoi90226
Claiborne8979
Benton84214
Grundy79214
Cannon7864
Lewis77714
Morgan7626
Humphreys7418
Union7375
Jackson69410
Polk69415
Stewart61015
Houston59220
Clay56018
Sequatchie5465
Meigs51013
Perry49221
Moore4043
Pickett39513
Van Buren3792
Hancock1833

Community Events