Hot seat

Betsy DeVos grilled on campus sexual assault, arming teachers

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. (Twitter / '60 Minutes)

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appeared on 60 Minutes Sunday night and had some difficulty answering questions on some of the most divisive subjects on which she’s taken action during her first year as a member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet.

Lesley Stahl interviewed DeVos and, not surprisingly, the topic of campus sexual assault came up — an incendiary issue that became even more politically charged back in September when DeVos issued new federal guidelines on how colleges and universities should approach dealing with such incidents. The new guidelines replaced those installed by the Obama administration, which DeVos had described as “failed” and biased against the accused. The move has drawn sharp criticism by many who say she’s made campus sexual assault investigations biased against the victims.

When Stahl asked DeVos if the number of false sexual assault accusations are as high as the number of actual rapes or assault, DeVos replied with what seemed to be a canned answer: “Well, one sexual assault is one too many, and one falsely accused individual is one too many.” Stahl then rephrased her question, making it more direct. “Yeah, but, are they the same?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” DeVos stammered. “But I’m committed to a process that’s fair for everyone involved.”

The conversation touched on a number of other hot topics, including school choice and whether teachers should be armed, but during the campus sexual assault line of questioning, Stahl inquired about DeVos’ own experiences in the workplace, and asked whether she had a #MeToo story to share.

“I can recall a number of moments in the past — several decades ago that I think today would just be viewed as unacceptable,” DeVos told her.

When Stahl asked about why she’s become perhaps one of the most reviled figures in Trump’s administration, DeVos chalked that up to her status as an agent of change.

“There are a lot of really powerful forces allied against change,” Devos said, adding that the harsh criticism can hurt. “Sometimes it does,” she said. Below, watch a highlight of DeVos answering Stahl’s questions on sexual assault.

On Monday morning, DeVos turned up on NBC’s Today show and talked more about her thoughts on whether some teachers should carry guns, as Trump has suggested on multiple occasions in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Florida las month. DeVos is being made the head of a federal task force that will examine strategies to curb violence in schools.

Savannah Guthrie questioned DeVos about Trump’s backing off the possibility of raising the legal age to purchase an assault weapon from 18 to 21, and why it isn’t in the first draft of the task force’s plan.

“The plan is really the first step in a more lengthy process, and the proposals that the president put forward really encompass a lot of things that are supported on a broad bipartisan basis.” When pressed about why the increased age requirement wasn’t in the plan, DeVos said, “Everything is on the table.”

Devos was also asked about whether she thinks some teachers should be armed while in school and said she believes some teachers should be allowed to carry guns, “those who are capable and qualified and only in places where it’s appropriate.” She added that it would not be appropriate to have an armed teacher in every classroom. When asked whether she believed some teachers should be allowed to carry assault weapons in schools, she said, “I don’t think assault weapons carried in schools, carried by any school personnel is the appropriate thing.” DeVos also stressed that she thinks deciding these sorts of nuances should be left up to state and local officials. Watch the full interview from Today below.

Read the full story at The Hill.

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