A Disabled Student's Open Letter To Betsy DeVos: Please Protect All Of Us

Dear Ms. DeVos,

Your confirmation as the U.S. Education Secretary has left anti-Trumpists furious. They have made fun of your comment on grizzlies and mocked your grammar. But I was not upset with your confirmation as secretary because of your policies on bears or because you allegedly can’t spell W.E.B. Du Bois’ name correctly. Despite not agreeing with anything President Trump says or does, I, unlike some of your opponents, was not upset based solely on the fact that you were nominated by Trump.

I am a junior in high school who attends a federally funded, public high school. I am disabled. I am a beneficiary of every single right that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides me; I represent one of the millions of students with disabilities who are allowed the freedom to receive an education in the United States.

Despite my parents’ dreams, I am not the best student. But the fact that I can even call myself a student is a testament to every single activist and politician who made education a right for all, and not a privilege for the able-bodied.

During your confirmation hearing, I heard you first say that whether or not schools follow the regulations set by the IDEA should be up to the states. Next, you stated that you may have confused the IDEA with another legislation. Your lack of knowledge about fundamental education legislation is not even what is most frightening to me. It was your unwillingness to state that you will enforce every federal law that gives me and all of my peers opportunities to a quality education that makes me fear for the worst.

While our current special education system is in desperate need of more federal attention, your history with supporting charter and private schools that force students with special needs and disabilities to sign over their federally promised rights is troubling.

The IDEA has provided me with ample resources to be an educated member of our society. It has given me the tools to succeed in college and beyond. While sometimes I am bitter that I have to be tested on fundamental trigonometric identities, I know that individuals with disabilities in generations before me were not given the right to receive a quality education.

So, Ms. DeVos, I am not angry with you. I do not reject your position as Education Secretary. I am simply asking for you to protect the rights to a quality education regardless of ability. It is my sincerest hope that your leadership will genuinely increase the educational opportunities for all.


A worried teen