Betsy DeVos Grilled About Not Knowing the Mission of Her Own Civil Rights Office During House Questioning

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was subjected to intense questioning during an appearance before a House committee Tuesday, at one point being forced to admit that she had not "memorized" her department's Office of Civil Rights mission statement.

DeVos has faced scrutiny for her decisions to rescind guidances written to protect students against sexual assault as well as black, transgender and disabled students against discrimination. In April, it was reported that the office had begun dismissing hundreds of civil rights cases in order. The move, which was slammed by her predecessor in the Obama administration, was made, the department said, in order to bring about greater efficiency.

Answering questions before the House Education and Workforce Committee, DeVos was grilled on her commitment to civil rights by Democratic Representative Marcia Fudge, who asked her to state the Office of Civil Rights' mission.

"The Office for Civil Rights is committed to protecting the civil rights as determined under the law of this land, and we do so proudly and with great focus each day," DeVos said.

"That's not the mission statement. Do you know what it is?" Fudge responded.

"I have not memorized the mission statement," DeVos conceded.

Fudge then changed tack, asking the head of the Education Department what she understood to be "vigorous enforcement of civil rights in context of schools today."

Devos responded that "It would be following the law and enforcing the law as stated," to which Fudge simply sighed and said "OK."

DeVos has faced much criticism since she was confirmed to the role following a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence, the first time such a procedure was required in Senate history.

She has also faced scrutiny for her response to school shootings. Following the killing of 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in February, DeVos, echoing President Donald Trump, said some states and communities should consider arming teachers.

In the wake of the latest school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, last week, which left 10 people dead, DeVos was again questioned about the subject Tuesday.

The shooting, she said, "was only the most recent, devastating reminder that our nation must come together to address the underlying issues that create a culture of violence."

She added, without mentioning the subject of guns: "Our commitment to every student's success is one we must renew every day, but first we must ensure our children are safe at school."

betsy devos
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies during a House House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, on May 22. DeVos was subjected to intense questioning, at one point being forced to admit that she had not “memorized” her department’s Office of Civil Rights mission statement. Mark Wilson/Getty Images