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Senator Baldwin Asks DeVos How She Plans to Protect Students, Teachers, School Staff

CDC has urged schools to prepare for the possible spread of coronavirus

Education Committee Democrats ask DeVos to outline her plan for students, teachers, and other school staff, following her announcement of an Education Department coronavirus task force

“We write to understand how the U.S. Department of Education is preparing for the possible spread of the virus and … how to best protect students, teachers, and other staff”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin joined fellow Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and requested Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos provide details about the Department’s coronavirus preparedness and response efforts and how the Department plans to protect students, teachers, and other school staff in the event of an outbreak.

Last week, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), urged schools to prepare for the spread of coronavirus and advised families to begin planning for how they will provide care for their children in the event of school closures. Following that announcement, Secretary DeVos announced that she had created a coronavirus task force at the Department of Education.

The senators asked Secretary DeVos to provide more information regarding the role and responsibilities of the Department’s COVID-19 task force, how the Department is communicating with federal public health officials, what information the Department has provided to school districts and institutions of higher education, and if the Department has considered the impact of coronavirus on students with disabilities, students from food-insecure families, and students experiencing homelessness. The senators also expressed their concern about media reports of bullying, harassment and discrimination of students of Asian descent, and urged the Department to issue specific guidance to remind schools of their legal obligation to protect the civil rights of students and staff and responsibility to prevent and address discrimination.

“As public health officials warn about the likely spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States, we write to understand how the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) is preparing for the possible spread of the virus and communicating with frontline stakeholders, school districts, state educational agencies, and institutions of higher education about how to best protect students, teachers, and other staff,” wrote the senators.

“It is essential that experts across the federal government work together to disseminate science and fact-based information to the public as decisions are made,” added the senators.

In order to understand the Department’s role in this process and how the Department’s task force will work with other federal agencies and stakeholders, the senators requested answers to their questions no later than March 9.

In addition to Senator Baldwin, the letter was signed by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the HELP Committee, and Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Tim Kaine (D-VA).

The full letter is available HERE.