Barbara Lee Lets Betsy DeVos Have It for Her Indifference About Racism in Schools

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) on Tuesday hammered Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over what she said was a lack of concern for the civil liberties of students of color.

In particular, Lee grilled DeVos about the discrepancies in punishments for the same offenses when they’re conducted by students of color versus when they’re conducted by white students.

“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 said. “For the same infraction, black and brown students are expelled at a much higher rate. That’s what you call racial bias and racism.”

Lee then pivoted to asking DeVos if she could understand why black and brown students were worried about the president’s plan to arm teachers, given that many of them already face significantly greater punishments for the same infractions compared to white students.

When DeVos dodged this question, Lee asked her why she had yet to respond to a letter Lee sent her office all the way back in June about the problems of school segregation — and DeVos responded by blaming the Senate for slow walking Department of Education appointees.

“Madam Secretary, you just don’t care much about civil rights of black and brown children,” Lee replied in disgust. “This is horrible.”

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