Trans teacher artfully explains why schools need Joe Biden’s education secretary to be everything that Betsy DeVos isn’t

US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been blasted by LGBT+ activists for her rollbacks of trans protections. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

A trans teacher has set out what America needs from the Biden-Harris administration’s future education secretary: the polar opposite of Betsy DeVos.

Since 2017, anti-LGBT+ Betsy DeVos has ruled over the US education system under the Trump administration.

She has time and time again attacked the rights of young LGBT+ Americans, from arguing that anti-LGBT+ religious groups should be able to organise on college campuses, to throwing her support behind anti-LGBT+ schools which ban students from discussing their queer identities and expel trans children. 

In 2017, DeVos revoked Obama-era guidance that extended discrimination protections to transgender people in education.

Appearing before Congress last year, the education official admitted she was aware her decision could cause harm to trans students.

Asked if she was aware of a recent study showing “alarming levels of suicide” among transgender students, DeVos responded: “I’m aware of that data.”

Speaking to LGBTQ Nation, trans California high school teacher Tray Robinson, who won the GLSEN 2020 Educator of the Year Award, laid out the changes that need to be made when Joe Biden becomes president next year.

DeVos has “waged war” on minority students, Robinson said, leaving children “trapped in school watching every day on the news as more and more and more of their personal civil rights were stripped away”.

“School bullying is insane,” he said. “It is literally insane. But the way it started getting dealt with after Trump was basically saying, ‘Well we will say something to them, but that’s their beliefs.’

“We have to do better than that, but the Trump administration in schools made all kinds of bullying OK. It wasn’t just LGBT+. It was bullying special needs people, it was bullying minorities.”

He added: “Besides taking away Betsy Devos and everything she’s done, they need to come out with a campaign to change the national attitude and behaviour.

“I think they really need to come out hard with a ‘what does it mean to be an American’ character campaign that focuses heavily on tolerance, civility, and what it means to be a citizen.”

On a future Biden-Harris administration education secretary, Robinson said: “I want to see them say, we have done things to damage our minority communities, whether that was LGBT+ people or people of colour or people with exceptional needs or people with mental health concerns, and you’re still citizens and we are still responsible for helping ensure your life, your liberty, and your pursuit of happiness.

“I think more than anything, people want to know the government is going to go back to governing and stop bullying.”

But the trans teacher wants to see more than simply a return to the pre-Trump “status quo”, he wants to see progress.

“I really am hoping that Biden and Harris are able to transition smoothly and make some changes for education going forward that really don’t take us back to the status quo we had before.

“Everybody wants things to get back to normal, but normal wasn’t good for us either. I want things to come back and be correct, not normal.”