I had a nun in grade school, who with a sadistic look in her eye (the other eye was a wandering glass eye), would repeatedly paddle your hand until you started to cry. She swung, and swung and swung, all the while ignoring your pleas to stop, almost as if she was in a hellish world all of her own, hell-bent on hurting children.
Watching Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos being interviewed by CNN's Dana Bash on Sunday reminded me of that nun. With an equally heartless look in both her eyes, DeVos swung and swung and swung at each of Bash's questions about opening schools, seemingly only out to hurt the kids. "Schools need to open," she repeatedly said, without any explanation about what that entailed, how possible outbreaks would be addressed, or if CDC guidelines should be followed. She minimized the dangers with each swipe.
I was waiting for Dana Bash to start to cry to end the wicked witch's demonic slapping of our nation's children.
You see, DeVos only cares about one child. And that is her petulant, pubescent boss, Donald Trump. Without giving a single thought to the millions of kids whose very lives are at stake, to the millions of parents desperate for answers, and millions of teachers and school personnel pleading for guidance, DeVos repetitively sought to soothe and settle toddler Trump. And she also tried to emulate him.
For there are no national guidelines established by Trump that exist to help curtail this virus, which is also swinging out of control across the entire U.S. For example, the Center for Disease Control's director Robert Redfield told CNN's Sanjay Gupta last week that a national testing strategy needed to be implemented. Really? You think so? Six months into a pandemic, and you realize this? Just like there needs to be a national contact tracing program, Defense Production Act, and on and on and on. The Federal government vis-a-vis Donald Trump disastrously and horrifically has nothing in place, and no intentions to do anything.
Same goes for DeVos. Equally, there is nothing coming from the Department of Education as we head toward August and the start of the school year, and no intentions about doing anything. It's absolutely alarming that at this stage, it's every school district for themselves, with no cohesive strategy, no overall program, and no help, plain and simple. DeVos answers to Bash, while indignant and idiotic, were also insulting to every parent with a child, every teacher with a classroom, and every superintendent with a school district.
This only involves America's children, and that's not of much consequence or concern to DeVos. She only cares about her 74-year-old man-child, and even that seems pointless right now since we all know that Trump recently "aced" his cognitive test, so he's done with school. Maybe we should remind DeVos how deadly serious her role is, and how unsuited she is for it, and have her step aside?
We in the LGBTQ+ community can say, "I told you so!" We knew she was bad news. At the time of her nomination, civil rights groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, all questioned the wisdom of the DeVos nomination. She and her family have a long history of supporting antigay causes -- including donating hundreds of thousands to groups that push "conversion therapy."
In one of her first acts as secretary of education, Bigoted Betsy revoked Obama-era guidance that protected transgender students. In 2018, DeVos officially confirmed that the Department of Education was no longer investigating complaints from transgender students regarding access to bathrooms and locker rooms, as well as a range of other complaints of anti-transgender discrimination.
And she highlighted her contempt for us last year in a "back-to-school" tour by visiting a learning institution with an explicit anti-transgender policy.
During his campaign in 2016, Trump threatened to eliminate the Department of Education. And by choosing DeVos to run it, he effectively did shut it down since she has been absent for America's children -- both LGBTQ and otherwise -- for the last three and half years. She cares more about trying to keep trans kids out of their rightful restroom than she does about keeping those same restrooms clean, sanitized, and disinfected during the pandemic.
To her a decontaminated bathroom means no trans people.
She offered zero counsel about what schools should do to remain safe havens as she pushed that kids need to go back. Go back to what? She couldn't say. Go back how? She couldn't say. Go back with what? She couldn't say. Go back when? NOW! She said.
Let's just say we take her advice, and we unleash our kids at the end of next month and send them all back to school -- regardless of whether or not the virus is running rampant in their school district. At this point, and with the way things are going, we can probably assume that there won't be a region in the United States where the disease isn't spreading. So, where does that leave our kids? Or frightened and cautious parents? And at-risk teachers and staff?
According to The New York Times, federal materials for reopening schools, shared internally within the administration, said fully reopening schools and universities remained the "highest risk" for the spread of the coronavirus.
Doesn't matter to DeVos. She is taking her scientific advice straight from her golden child Trump. DeVos wouldn't even endorse the CDC's guidelines or suggest that school systems adhere to them.
Just like she doesn't trust gays, lesbians, bisexuals, or trans people, you can add scientists to that list. The same day she was dissing the science, Trump and his minions were dissing Dr. Anthony Fauci. And if that isn't the ultimate slap in the face to the safety of America's children, parents and teachers, I don't know what is.
Trump took a paddle to the CDC's guidelines for opening schools last week. On Sunday DeVos slapped the CDC further. All the while schools scramble to try and figure out what to do. DeVos won't stop whacking until all the sick children start crying.
JohnCasey is a PR professional and an adjunct professor at Wagner College in New York City, and a frequent columnist for The Advocate. Follow John on Twitter @johntcaseyjr.