Education Dept Puts Anti-LGBTQ Activist At Head Of Diversity And Inclusion Council
In early 2020, the heads of the Department of Education's Civil Rights Office announced that they would take control of and reorganize the agency's staff-led Diversity and Inclusion and Retention Advisory Boards. The two committees were merged into one, and in August, Senior Counsel Sarah Perry, a new addition with a long history of anti-transgender activism, was named co-chair, HuffPost learned.
Several employees of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the agency of the division dedicated to enforcing civil rights law in K-12 schools and universities, told HuffPost that it was ironic to appoint someone who actively opposes LGBTQ -People has worked to guide diversity and inclusion efforts and be daunting.
Perry previously worked at the Family Research Council, a Christian fundamentalist organization that preaches against the rights of the LGBTQ community, where she often spoke publicly about her opposition to transgender people.
Speaking at a press conference in front of the Supreme Court in October 2019, Perry told an audience that children with autism often mistakenly believe they are transgender, an unsubstantiated claim.
"By ignoring the underlying conditions, the demands of transgender supremacy marginalize our unique children, especially those diagnosed with autism and mental health," said Perry, who is an attorney. “They are diverting much-needed resources away from the autism pandemic. They replace science with pseudoscience. And they make our children ask who they really are. "
Under Education Minister Betsy Devos, the Ministry of Education has threatened to withdraw funds from schools if transgender students are allowed to participate in sports teams that match their gender identity. And now a new commissioner who speaks out against transsexuals is leading a council on diversity and inclusion in the department. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)
Perry was appointed to the council a month before the final step of the OCR, which was preventing schools from allowing transgender athletes to participate in the team that matches their gender identity.
In September, the office informed Connecticut school districts that it would withhold millions in grants to ease school separation unless the districts withdraw from the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which allows transgender athletes to compete in teams who match their gender identity, The New York Times reported.
The Department of Education previously said it believes such policies violate Title IX, the law that prohibits gender discrimination in federally funded programs by giving potentially transgender students a competitive advantage. (Recent court rulings, on the other hand, have largely interpreted the exclusion policy as discrimination based on sex, although those rulings did not specifically address the issue of athletes.) Civil rights groups have identified the ruling as manifestly biased.
In January, HuffPost first reported that a department whistleblower, Attorney Dwayne Bensing, had been ousted from work after discovering executives working on the Connecticut case had violated protocol.
Perry, who still worked on the Family Research Council, praised the multiple processing of the case by the department.
"This is really a lot of good news from OCR," she said on a podcast. "The idea has been taken of providing a separate transgender league for these people, and yet this has not proven sufficient to stifle the debate." It should be as simple as Title IX, Protecting Biological Girls. "
At the Family Research Council, Perry worked on opposition to the Common Core State Standards, a set of standards for math and English teaching used in most states. On the organization's podcast, she interviewed and praised personalities such as right-wing provocateur James O'Keefe, whose group Project Veritas most recently falsely claimed to have evidence that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) Committed electoral fraud. She also criticized children's shows like The Babysitters Club for including transgender characters.
In early 2020, under former chairman Ken Marcus, OCR dissolved the employee-led diversity and inclusion and employee engagement boards. The heads of state and government then merged the two councils and selected political candidates as new chairpersons in addition to the Agency's deputy deputy chief secretary, who is the permanent chairman of the group.
Angela Morabito, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education, said that "Diversity and inclusion remain a top priority for the leadership of OCR, which is why the Diversity and Inclusion Council is led by two senior leaders."
In addition to Perry, Don Salo, who received the Army Secretary's Award for Diversity and Inclusion 2016 according to Morabito, is also co-chair.
Participation in the committees was previously open to all employees, but is now limited to representatives who are usually approved by regional management. While the decision to revise the committees was presented as a decision designed to make them broader and more strategic, some staff saw it as a backlash against councils that recently opposed new practices.
The committees serve to promote diversity and provide feedback to management. However, according to three current and former employees, the idea that the headquarters controlled committee could now perform such tasks is ridiculous. One told HuffPost that "it seems like a decision not to make OCR a better and more diverse place" and to further disempower workers. Another employee who said he was unhappy and concerned about the changes noted, there are others who seem relatively satisfied and seem to like Perry.
In a 2019 survey of OCR employees administered by the Human Resources Bureau and conducted by HuffPost, 60% of respondents said they did not believe their organization's leaders maintain high levels of integrity. (An Education Department official found that only 65% of OCR workers took the voluntary survey, only half of respondents answered this particular question, and the term "leader" was undefined and could be interpreted as representing a number of different roles .)
In September, the Ministry of Education released internal guidelines to eradicate any diversity training that might discuss the concept of white privilege or suggest that "virtually all whites contribute to or benefit from racism," Politico reported for the first time. The guidelines are in line with an administrative policy on the matter and mean that employee activities such as book clubs could be scrutinized.
The new guidelines could prove particularly cumbersome for Civil Rights Office staff as they regularly recommend that school districts being screened for racial issues conduct implicit bias training. OCR staff may now need to recommend training for schools that they are not allowed to attend themselves.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
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