CNN invited Jacob Lemay, a nine-year-old elementary student from Massachusetts, to ask Warren a question during their historic presidential candidate town hall on LGBTQ rights held in Los Angeles in October.
Lemay is a transgender youth advocate with the Human Rights Campaign whose own story of transitioning has made news over recent years. No stranger to the spotlight he stole the show when he stepped up to the mic. Dressed in a blue suit and matching tie, his mother by his side, Lemay stood in front of the live audience and addressed the Massachusetts Senator, one of the nine candidates vying for the White House who participated in the event.
“My name is Jacob, and I am a nine-year-old transgender American,” Jacob Lemay said to Elizabeth Warren.
Advocating for all trans youth, Lemay asked Warren, “What will you do in your first week as president to make sure kids like me feel safer in schools?” He confidently followed with “And what do you think schools should do better so that I don’t have to worry about anything but my homework?”
“What will you do…to make sure kids like me feel safer in schools?”
Democrat Warren applauded Lemay and stated that she liked his question, then went further to reinforce her commitment that her administration would make sure that Betsy DeVos is out of a job in 2021. Since DeVos, a Republican activist, was appointed to the Department of Education in 2017, the office has rolled back Obama-era guidance that advised schools to treat trans students in accordance with their lived gender when it comes to pronouns use, locker rooms, and bathrooms.
“The secretary of education was given a whole lot of power over the public schools and over the rules and how they’re enforced,” Warren said. “And we’ve had some secretaries of education who have been better, and we’ve had one that’s been a whole lot worse. Her name is Betsy DeVos.”
DeVos, who has called for expanded charter schools and school voucher programs, has come under scrutiny from Warren’s office since being appointed by President Donald Trump, including for her office’s position on civil rights protections. Under questioning by Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark in 2017, DeVos declined to say if she would withhold federal funds from private schools that deny admission to LGBT students or families.
Warren promised to appoint an education secretary that “believes in public education,” and would enforce all students’ civil rights. “When I’m president, she’ll be gone,” Warren declared.
“When I’m president, she’ll be gone.”
Warren made one more promise to Lemay and said she would look to him for input. “Here’s what I plan to do,” she said. “I want to make sure that the person I think is the right Secretary of Education meets you and hears your story. And then I want you to tell me if you think that’s the right person, and then we’ll make the deal. Does that sound good?”
Jacob responded with a “thumbs up” amid an outburst of audience applause.