‘A nice idea’

GA Voice - - Georgianews -

She hasn’t is­sued an Ed­u­ca­tional De­gree No. 24, but US De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion Sec. Betsy DeVos is not a fan fa­vorite in the LGBT com­mu­nity. Her con­sis­tent push to in­tro­duce school voucher pro­grams is seen by many as dis­crim­i­na­tory, as is her re­fusal to con­demn pri­vate schools that dis­crim­i­nate against LGBT stu­dents.

“Pressed by Democrats on how she would pro­tect the rights of LGBT stu­dents, DeVos said in ar­eas where the law is ‘un­set­tled,’ which she said in­cluded ar­eas of bias against gay peo­ple, her de­part­ment would not be ‘is­su­ing decrees,’” ac­cord­ing to a re­cent piece in the pub­li­ca­tion In­side Higher Ed. “Even if the law is un­clear, that doesn’t re­move the obli­ga­tion of the de­part­ment to of­fer guid­ance and en­force the law.”

Harper Jean Tobin, di­rec­tor of policy for the Na­tional Cen­ter for Trans­gen­der Equal­ity, told In­side Higher Ed that there was hope DeVos would “clar­ify that she be­lieves all schools that ac­cept fed­eral funds must fol­low fed­eral law.”

“Now that we fi­nally have that clar­i­fi­ca­tion from her, it’s ap­par­ent that we should put an as­ter­isk on it,” Tobin said.

In the few short months since tak­ing of­fice, DeVos al­ready rolled back pro­tec­tions on LGBT stu­dents. In Fe­bru­ary, she re­scinded guid­ance doc­u­ments re­lated to bath­room us­age for trans­gen­der youths. Just last week, her de­part­ment’s Of­fice for Civil Rights closed a dis­crim­i­na­tion case in­volv­ing an el­e­men­tary school stu­dent in Ohio.

Candice Jackson, who is head of that of­fice, told Wash­ing­ton Post that the find­ings of dis­crim­i­na­tion were with­drawn be­cause those find­ings were based on the re­scinded bath­room guid­ance doc­u­ments.

But ar­guably the great­est con­cern about LGBT dis­crim­i­na­tion in schools comes

June 23, 2017

from the voucher pro­gram that both DeVos and Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence are big pro­po­nents of.

“It’s al­ways sur­pris­ing to me that you should be able to choose your col­lege and be able to pur­sue the aca­demics and so­cial en­vi­ron­ment that you want, but you shouldn’t be able to be around those peo­ple when you’re in K through 12,” said Chris­tian Zsilavetz, founder of the pri­vate, LGBT-af­firm­ing Pride School At­lanta. “If you are a right-wing, fun­da­men­tal­ist Chris­tian, you would prob­a­bly like to be around peo­ple who are largely rightwing fun­da­men­tal­ist Chris­tians when you go to col­lege. Go for it. Just like many peo­ple go to lib­eral uni­ver­si­ties be­cause they want to be places where they’re not a tar­get.”

He said new pri­vate schools open up reg­u­larly for that rea­son: to pro­vide an en­vi­ron­ment that fills a spe­cific need, such as a safe space for LGBT stu­dents.

In­di­ana’s had a school voucher pro­gram for a num­ber of years. It sounds sim­ple: Each year, a cer­tain amount of tax­payer dol­lars, per child in at­ten­dance, is al­lo­cated to public schools. Un­der a school voucher pro­gram, those dol­lars could be trans­ferred to a pri­vate school if that child’s fam­ily would pre­fer her not at­tend a public school, but oth­er­wise could not af­ford the pri­vate school’s tu­ition.

“I think I agree with the idea of be­ing able to go to a pri­vate school with public fund­ing,


be­cause the schools that are avail­able to many stu­dents are not nec­es­sar­ily the best schools to be had, just by virtue of where you live,” said Zsilavetz, who called school vouch­ers “a nice idea.” “But this idea of be­ing able to go to a school that dis­crim­i­nates, like the re­li­gious schools, that’s a chal­lenge for me. … It’s another thing to al­low schools that dis­crim­i­nate, es­pe­cially in this day and age, on the ba­sis of LGBT iden­tity of the child or the fam­ily, I think that’s ridicu­lous to al­low them to re­ceive public fund­ing.”

For ex­am­ple, he said, Pride School would not be al­lowed to re­ceive fund­ing if it dis­crim­i­nated against stu­dents on some­thing like race. And even Catholic schools don’t dis- CON­TIN­UES ON PAGE 7

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