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Protesters Block Betsy DeVos From Visiting Washington, D.C., Public School

By Alyson Klein — February 10, 2017 3 min read

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.

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.

And they showed up:

And got attaboys from plenty of likeminded folks on social media:

Plus at least a few raised eyebrows:

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation for Teachers, said she was dismayed that protestors, including some union members, had blocked DeVos’ entrance:

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:

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:

DeVos made a brief statement after her visit, but took no questions, according to tweets from reporters:

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.

Not everyone at Howard University, a historically black college in Washington, was so excited about the visit.

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:


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