Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California, tore into Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at a House hearing on Tuesday. Among other things, Lee castigated DeVos for feigning ignorance about why students of color, who are already punished at rates disproportionate to their white peers, might have cause for concern if the Trump administration’s plan to arm teachers goes through.
“The issue is the differing of punishment by race for the same type of infraction, the disparity there as it relates to suspensions and expulsions,” Lee began. “For the same infraction, black and brown students are disciplined and expelled at a much higher rate. That’s what you call racial bias and racism.”
Lee then pivoted to address why DeVos’ Department of Education is seeking to delay by two years the implementation of an Obama administration rule to combat disproportionate numbers of students of color being placed in special ed programs, as well as how students of color will feel if the president’s plan to arm some teachers as a school safety measure is put in place.
“Should the president’s view prevail, do you see why black and brown students are really worried and anxious about this? Very clear to me,” she said.
DeVos responded weakly, saying her department is reviewing different guidelines and offering nothing to address Lee’s concerns about how racial disparities in school punishments relate to arming teachers.
Lee wasn’t impressed. “Madam Secretary, you just don’t care much about civil rights of black and brown students,” she concluded. “This is horrible.”
Hard to argue with that.