Brand-new U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos—who was sworn in this week after the most controversial and turbulent confirmation process for any education-secretary nominee in history—made her first visit to a public school, Jefferson Middle School Academy in Washington, D.C., on Friday. The event was closed to the media. But there were protesters there to greet her, including some retired teachers.
Those protesters blocked DeVos and Antwan Wilson, the chancellor of the District of Columbia public schools, from entering a side-door, according to this clip by ABC-News WJLA. The pair eventually made it in through an alternate entrance.
— Sam Sweeney (@SweeneyABC) February 10, 2017
UPDATE: DeVos released a statement Friday after her visit, addressing the demonstration: “I respect peaceful protest, and I will not be deterred in executing the vital mission of the Department of Education. No school door in America will be blocked from those seeking to help our nation’s school children.”
DeVos’ visit was publicized by Washington Teachers’ Union president Elizabeth Davis yesterday, who urged protesters to meet DeVos at the school.
Meet Betsy DeVos at Jefferson Academy in SW DC tomorrow morning at 10 am to say “NO” to privatization of our schools!@wtuteacher@rweingarten
— elizabeth davis (@davis704) February 9, 2017
And they showed up:
Community members in Southwest DC protest EdSec DeVos’ first school visit at Jefferson Middle School. pic.twitter.com/tJNwHcH5bk
— Rep. Ellison For DNC (@FeelTheBern11) February 10, 2017
And got attaboys from plenty of likeminded folks on social media:
— Advancement Project (@adv_project) February 10, 2017
Plus at least a few raised eyebrows:
Your protests have jumped the shark when you’re protesting the Education Secretary like this is a Game of Thrones episode https://t.co/Pu9q6npuw1
— Lindsey Burke (@lindseymburke) February 10, 2017
Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation for Teachers, said she was dismayed that protestors, including some union members, had blocked DeVos’ entrance:
Just heard a protester blocked & almost knocked Secy @BetsyDeVos down at Jefferson.We don’t condone such acts.We want her to go to pub schls
— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) February 10, 2017
And one close associate of DeVos’, Greg McNeilly, who is the CEO of her company (the Windquest Group) tweeted an especially eye-popping comparison, saying the protesters were acting like Bull Connor, the commissioner of public safety in Birmingham, Ala. during the early 1960s who encouraged violence against civil rights activists:
Bull Connor = BLM? Ironic but accurate?
— Greg McNeilly (@gregmcneilly) February 10, 2017
McNeilly’s tweet, in turn, got this reaction from Zakiya Smith, who worked on higher education at the White House during President Barack Obama’s tenure:
— Zakiya Smith (@SmithZakiya) February 10, 2017
DeVos made a brief statement after her visit, but took no questions, according to tweets from reporters:
Betsy DeVos briefly spoke to press after visiting Jefferson MS. “The school is awesome,” she said. pic.twitter.com/6v6SLF7clG
— Martin Austermuhle (@maustermuhle) February 10, 2017
This isn’t the first time that DeVos has gotten out and about since taking the helm of the department. She visited Howard University Thursday, along with Omarosa Manigault, an alumna of President Donald Trump’s reality show, the Apprentice, who is working on African-American issues at the White House.
— Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVos) February 9, 2017
Not everyone at Howard University, a historically black college in Washington, was so excited about the visit.
As Secretary of Education, we do not trust Betsy DeVos to administer sound policies that will help black youth matriculate into college
— #HUAgainstHate (@HUAgainstHate17) February 10, 2017
It makes us wonder how long it will be before a DeVos visit to a school or university—pretty routine for education secretaries—is no longer a high-profile, divisive event. And apparently we’re not the only ones wondering:
Agree or disagree w @BetsyDeVos on any issue, but let’s all agree she really needs to be in public schools. Please let her in.
— Arne Duncan (@arneduncan) February 10, 2017
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