Betsy DeVos—of all people—is fighting Donald Trump to protect transgender students

A twist.
A twist.
Image: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
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The rocky confirmation of Betsy DeVos and the incredible protests that surrounded it had Americans complaining that new education secretary would wreak havoc on the country’s schools and students. In fact, one of her first acts in the office has been defying president Donald Trump.

According to the New York Times (paywall), DeVos is disagreeing with his draft order that would roll back protections for transgender students:

Ms. DeVos initially resisted signing off on the order and told President Trump that she was uncomfortable with it, according to three Republicans with direct knowledge of the internal discussions. The draft order would reverse the directives put in place last year by the Obama administration to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice.

Mr. Sessions, who strongly opposes expanding gay, lesbian and transgender rights, fought Ms. DeVos on the issue and pressed her to relent because he could not go forward without her consent. The order must come from the Justice and Education Departments.

Per the Times, DeVos has ended up agreeing to go along with the order, but only because Trump sided with Sessions and DeVos was “faced with the choice of resigning or defying the president.” She has also inserted language saying that schools must protect transgender students from bullying, which the newspaper said was due to her concerns about the high rates of suicide among transgender teens.

All of this comes despite her saying while she was being confirmed that Trump’s views on education are “very aligned” with her own. Such tensions show that, contrary to expectations, the new education secretary isn’t actually ready to fall neatly in line with all of Trump’s ideas. DeVos is a quiet supporter of LGBT rights (paywall), though she comes from a conservative family.

“Let’s make this deal: I will challenge all on how and why we’ve done things a certain way, but I will listen to each of you on your ideas for how we can do better for students,” DeVos said to members of the federal education department on her first day on the job. It seems the rest of Trump’s administration didn’t realize they would stand a chance at being challenged, too.

The order peeling back Obama’s directives is expected to be officially released soon.