Update: Human Rights Campaign says lawmakers bullied education chief

Rob Hill is director of the Human Rights Campaign Mississippi
Rob Hill is director of the Human Rights Campaign Mississippi ASSOCIATED PRESS

Even though State Education Superintendent Carey Wright backed down on her decision to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice in public schools, at least one Coast state senator wants her fired.

Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula, was one of at least 27 lawmakers who signed a letter sent to Wright this morning demanding the Department of Education "disregard the joint guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice regarding Title IX funding a accommodations for students with gender dysphoria."

A short time later, she issued a statement instructing the department to do just that and "follow the lead of state leadership and take no action at this time."

The pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign Mississippi said Gov. Phil Bryant and state Republican lawmakers bullied the Education Department into rejecting the federal guidelines.

Wright, HRC said, initially underscored the importance of a “a safe and caring school environment," in saying it would follow the federal direction.

“Mississippi lawmakers are playing politics with the lives of transgender students, yet recklessly claim that they’re the ones being bullied,” said HRC State Director Rob Hill. “Transgender young people have every right to the same opportunities as their peers and are already targets of violence, bullying and harassment. Mississippi’s action exacerbates risks to transgender students by creating a hostile environment in one of the places young people should feel safest. Make no mistake, these lawmakers are the bullies and their dangerous interference with guidance sought by their own teachers is also endangering billions of dollars in federal funding for our schools.”

Watson said he and five others voted against Wright when she was confirmed in 2014 and he doesn't like the job she has done.

"I thought then she wasn't the right person to lead the Department of Education," he said.

Watson said Wright should be fired for making, rather than carrying out, policy.

"Making policy is the (state Board of Education's) job," he said. "I know the board was very upset at her for not consulting them before making policy."

Watson said 27 of the state's 52 senators signed the letter, including Sens. Sean Tindell, Philip Moran, Tommy Gollott, Mike Seymour, Dennis DeBar Jr. and Angela Burks Hill.

Wright declined to comment on the letter.

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