Betsy DeVos, the nominee for secretary of the U.S. Department of Education under President-elect Donald Trump, participated in a contentious confirmation hearing on Tuesday evening.
The confirmation hearing was initially scheduled for Jan. 11, but the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions postponed the hearing due to Devos’ incomplete financial disclosures and unfinished ethics reviews.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the vote on DeVos’ nomination for the position is now scheduled for Jan. 31.
Michigan native DeVos has received flak for her support of school choice, a controversial issue in the national education debate. Even before the hearing, her appointment received criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Federation of Teachers. The Devos’ were also large donors to the Trump campaign. Despite the previously expressed concerns, it was Devos’ answers to other questions posed by Democratic senators regarding Title IX measures on sexual assault and the extent of gun regulation in schools which raised the most eyebrows.
The University of Michigan is currently under Title IX investigation.
The Title IX guidance, created in 2011, requires schools to respond to sexual assault complaints promptly and effectively. It also requires school employees who respond to sexual assault complaints to have adequate training.
When Sen. Bob Casey (D–Pa.) questioned DeVos on whether she would preserve the Title IX guidance, she was unable to give an affirmative response.
“If confirmed, I look forward to understanding the past actions and current situation better, and to ensuring that the intent of the law is actually carried out in a way that recognizes both the victim … as well as those who are accused,” DeVos said.
Casey, who called campus sexual assault “an epidemic,” continued to press DeVos for a definitive answer on whether she would preserve the guidance.
“It would be premature for me to do that today,” DeVos said.
As DeVos struggled to answer questions regarding the Title IX guideline, senators raised questions regarding her stance on gun regulation in schools.
Chris Murphy, a Democratic senator from Connecticut — the site of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in where over 20 were killed — brought up the issue, asking: “Do you think guns have any place in or around schools?”
“I think that’s best left to locales and states to decide,” DeVos said.
She then went on to cite the presence of guns in a school in Wyoming.
“I think probably there, I would imagine there is probably a gun in a school to protect from potential grizzlies,” she said.
DeVos also said she would support President-elect Trump if he moves forward with his plan to ban gun-free school zones.
DeVos, who has been a controversial nominee, has drawn more criticism after her confirmation hearing.
Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, said DeVos is unqualified to be the secretary of education.
“The United States Senate should reject her appointment and send a clear message that our public-school system is not for sale to the highest bidder,” Scott said in an MLive report.