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Rivera Schatz extends confirmation process for Education secretary

By on January 24, 2017

SAN JUAN — Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz clarified Tuesday afternoon that he won’t consider Education Secretary Julia Keleher’s designation until she gives her opinion on the use of public school restrooms based on gender identity, and whether students may choose their uniform based on their gender identity as well.

During a press conference, Rivera Schatz insisted on knowing the Education nominee’s stances on both issues, but Keleher kept replying that she needed time.

In this May 17, 2016, file photo, a new sticker designates a gender neutral bathroom at Nathan Hale high school in Seattle. A federal judge in Texas is blocking for now the Obama administration's directive to U.S. public schools that transgender students must be allowed to use the bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity. (Elaine Thompson, File/AP)

In this May 17, 2016, file photo, a sticker designates a gender neutral bathroom at Nathan Hale high school in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson, File/AP)

“[The consideration will take] the time it takes her to answer these questions. Until I don’t have that information clear, which is important to me, I [won’t consider it] until I have that information,” he said during the confirmation hearing.

Keleher requested the Senate president to give her one month to provide her opinion on bathroom use and uniform selection based on the student’s gender identity.

When asked if he would vote against Keleher if she favors bathroom and uniform use based on gender identity, the Senate president was steadfast.

“I won’t advance judgement because I want her to tell me what she genuinely thinks and I want to know her opinion. The Senate isn’t just one senator. The Senate is the 30 senators who compose it, but that reply is important to me and I will insist on her giving it to me, whatever it is.

“I believe she answered many questions splendidly, proved her knowledge in management from the classroom level to other administrative aspects and public policy, but I want her to answer these questions. It’s nothing more than having a clear conscience so I can cast my vote as senator in the confirmation,” Rivera Schatz emphasized .

See also: Rivera Schatz supports Vargas Vidot’s bills to address drug addiction

The Senate president’s questions led Keleher to reply nervously that she couldn’t respond at the time and lacked a formed opinion on the matter.

Rivera Schatz told the secretary-designate that “I don’t care what the law says, what I want to know is your opinion on these two matters,” but Keleher reaffirmed she needed time to answer.

“These are important issues and it’s necessary for the people to know. What I want to know is what she thinks,” Rivera Schatz said.

During the hearing, Keleher told senators that in the first three months, the Education Department will take immediate action to evaluate the state and needs of schools and school districts.

“We are presenting competitive proposals to the federal government to have access to more funds to benefit schools and students directly. We will begin with new pilot programs, like bilingual education, programs in collaboration with Juvenile Justice, and support the transition process and programs that encourage our students’ participation in internships. My interest and my focus is to re-energize the system,” Keleher said.

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