1. Betsy DeVos refused to protect LGBTQ+ students from discrimination by private schools which receive federal funds. DeVos was grilled on the subject by Sen. Merkley, who pointed out that she and Jeff Sessions revoked a directive from former president Obama to allow transgender students to use the bathroom which corresponds to their gender. While private schools getting federal money must follow federal laws, the federal laws around protections are unclear — and as Senator Merkley pointed out, when the law is unclear, students need to know that the Dept. of Education has their backs.
The past position of DeVos, as well as groups professing concern about “student privacy,” is that they should be decided at the local level by school boards — essentially saying that the rights of LGBTQ+ students should be allowed to vary from school district to school district.
Under repeated questioning, DeVos refused to commit to protecting LGBTQ+ students from discrimination, going so far as to say, “this department will not issue decrees.” (Citation: The Hill article here.) She was also questioned about religious students, and gave the same non-answer. Allowing private schools that receive federal money a pass on discriminating against religious minority and LGBTQ+ students is not acceptable. Contact DeVos and tell her it is the federal government’s job to protect some of its most vulnerable students.
[Image description: Official portrait of Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education. DeVos poses with a smile in front of a bookcase and the Dept. of Ed. and American flags. Img. credit: U.S. Dept of Education, public domain.]
- Telephone: (202) 401-1576; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @BetsyDeVos
- Suggested script: “Hello, my name is _____ and I live in Staunton, VA. I was appalled by Sec. DeVos’s refusal to affirm federal protections for religious students or for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other students of minority sexual orientations and gender identities. These students often face a high rate of bullying from their peers — they don’t need to fear discrimination from their school administrations as well. If a private school receives federal funds, it is bound by federal laws not to discriminate. However, the federal law is murky on this issue. This is where the Department of Education needs to step up and protect children who are just trying to get an education.”
- Possible tweet: “.@BetsyDeVos, step up to protect kids. #EducationWithoutDiscrimination”
2. Trump has announced that he plans to rescind the ACA’s birth control mandate. The ACA requires employers to include birth control and contraceptive coverage in their health plans for employees. Under President Obama, companies that wanted to opt out of that mandate had to go through a lengthy process. Trump would allow them to simply opt out, reversing a mandate that has improved the lives of so many people. Contact our MoC’s and ask them to condemn this measure.
- Goodlatte: Staunton (540) 885-3861, Harrisonburg (540) 432-2391, Lynchburg (434) 845-8306, Roanoke (540) 857-2672, Washington DC 202-225-5431 and email form here.
- Kaine: Washington DC: 202–224–4024, Manasses 703–361–3192, Roanoke 540–682–5693, Virginia Beach 757–518–1674, Richmond 804–771–2221, Abingdon 276–525–4790, Danville 434-792–0976, and his contact form is here.
- Warner: Washington DC 202-224-2023, Roanoke 540-857-2676, Abingdon 276-628-8158, Norfolk 757-441-3079, Richmond 804-775-2314, Vienna 703-442-0670. His submit comment form is here.
- Suggested script: “Hello, my name is _____ and my zip code is _____. I am concerned that President Trump wants to revoke the birth control mandate from the ACA. Birth control can be expensive and inconvenient to access when it is not covered, and access to reproductive control helps employees and their families attain greater economic control over their lies. Also, preventing pregnancies should be something even conservatives support, because birth control access reduces abortion rates. Finally, many people use hormonal birth control to help with a number of medical problems including PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and endometriosis. The birth control mandate was a common-sense measure and I would like [NAME] to speak up in its favor.”
3. UPCOMING EVENT – Staunton Goes Green! Wednesday, June 7th, 6-8pm at Staunton Public Library, upstairs.
Join us as Staunton City Council Member Eric Curren shares with residence the opportunities for making our city greener, more environmentally friendly, and more sustainable. Bring your ideas for how to make our beloved city greener. Solar schools, #NoPipeline signage, increased recycling, no idea is too big or too small! The goal is to leave this meeting with the concrete list of initiatives we will be asking Staunton City Council to put into place city-wide. More details at the Facebook event here.