Last week, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rebuffed Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s (D-Mich.) invitation to meet abuse survivors victimized by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar while DeVos was in the state, The Hill reports. Slotkin expressed that she was “deeply disappointed” by DeVos’s decision that illustrates how she is “ignoring” the issue of sexual assault in schools.
Slotkin relayed the details surrounding her invitation to DeVos in a statement to the Detroit Free Press.
“I asked Secretary DeVos why she wouldn’t meet with survivors of Nassar’s abuse — especially since she’s proposing significant changes to Title IX,” said Slotkin, referencing the former sports physician at Michigan State University who pleaded guilty to several charges of sexual assault.
"The secretary provided a long, legalistic response prepared by her attorneys as to why she couldn’t," Slotkin continued. "The truth is that if she can meet with me to talk about sexual assault on college campuses, she should be able to meet with Nassar survivors. As a leader and a Michigander, she should want to hear from them."
“I am deeply disappointed that Secretary DeVos — a Michigander and someone in a position of great leadership and authority to protect students’ safety and access to education — has never met with a survivor of Nassar’s abuse, a tragedy that has shaken the community to its core in our state. It appears she is ignoring the very lessons we have learned from the Nassar tragedy," she concluded.
DeVos, in a response to Slotkin, wrote that Nassar’s actions were “unspeakable” but she could not meet with the abuse survivors and Title IX advocates because of legal restrictions.
"I want to thank you for your request that I meet with Michigan State University Title IX survivor-advocates to hear about their experience and how to prevent sexual assault on college campuses. However, as you are no doubt aware, the law prevents me from doing so at this time," DeVos wrote.
An Education Department spokeswoman responded to Slotkin on Wednesday. Press secretary Liz Hill accused Slotkin of politicizing the Nassar abuse case and noted that two open investigations prevented DeVos from meeting with parties involved.
“Rep. Slotkin needs to stop using Nassar’s heinous crimes as banter for a press release. By all accounts from those in the room, this hyperbolic press release does not reflect the actual tone or tenor of yesterday’s meeting,” Hill wrote.