Rep. Barbara Lee blasts Betsy DeVos for her attitude toward racial disparities in schools

Barbara Lee
Rep. Barbara Lee (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

It’s probably safe to say California Rep. Barbara Lee isn’t a big fan of Betsy DeVos.

Tuesday, Lee slammed the Education Secretary for what she alleges is a lack of concern for the civil liberties of students of color.

READ MORE: Betsy DeVos sorry for not condemning racism when speaking to HBCUs

DeVos was specifically called out for the discrepancies in how students of color are punished for misconduct versus the much more lenient way their white counterparts are often reprimanded for the exact same offenses.

Calling her out

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

READ MORE: DeVos met with student protests during Univ. of Baltimore commencement speech

The congresswoman then inquired if DeVos could understand why black and brown students were worried about the president’s plan to arm teachers given the the perceived unequal way they’ve being treated all over the country.

“We are committed to reviewing this guidance and taking appropriate steps if any are warranted,” DeVos responded. “But I have nothing further to say at this point with regard to where that is.”

Lee followed that answer with another question about the two-year delay of a regulation requiring a strategy for fighting against the disproportionate number of minority students who are in special education classes.

Excuses, excuses

DeVos said the delay is to ensure that the Department of Education has a regulation that meets the needs of students who suffer with disabilities. Lee, however still seemed dissatisfied.

Lee bluntly said she believed that DeVos’ “head is in the sand” about racial bias, using a letter she wrote to the secretary last June about school segregation, but to which she never received a response.

DeVos said only that her office is waiting for “Senate-confirmed nominees” to become a part of the Education Department.

DeVos seemed to dodge the question making several excuses.

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

Check out the awkward exchange below.

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