Protesters initially blocked newly confirmed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from entering a Washington, D.C., school on Friday – with one “Black Lives Matter” demonstrator even briefly standing in front of her vehicle.
DeVos later made it into Jefferson Middle School Academy in Southwest D.C. for her first visit as secretary to a public school. This was only after a teacher/parent “vigil” blocked the road by the front entrance, and a handful of Black Lives Matter protesters caused problems when DeVos tried to enter through the back entrance.
Protesters shouted “shame, shame” at the secretary as she was led back into her vehicle. One holding a Black Lives Matter sign then stood in front of the van, but was scolded by fellow protesters to “let her leave,” and he stepped aside.
White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway tweeted afterward: “Don’t we want the Sec of Education to visit schools?”
Following the visit, DeVos issued a statement thanking D.C. school officials,
teachers and students for welcoming her and stressing that she believes a focus on students and families “is at the heart of providing an exceptional education.”
She added, “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.”
The disruption is the latest in a series of protests against Trump administration officials and policies. DeVos’ nomination was fiercely opposed by teachers unions and Democratic lawmakers in large part over her long support for charter schools and other public school alternatives. Two Republicans joined Democrats to oppose her in the Senate earlier this week, but Vice President Pence broke the 50-50 tie to ensure her confirmation.
According to Fox5DC, the “vigil” in front of the D.C. school on Friday was not labeled a protest, but designed to urge DeVos to “support and fund our public schools.”
Most of the few-dozen “vigil” participants were retired teachers and parents, but several Black Lives Matter demonstrators also attended and were more aggressive toward DeVos.
Jefferson Academy is a Title I school, meaning a majority of its students come from lower-income homes.
The school’s principal, Natalie Gordon, previously headed two D.C. charter schools before she was asked to take over at Jefferson Academy, which was struggling with low test scores. City officials say the school has made a dramatic turnaround over the last few years.
Friday’s protest comes after Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, reportedly confronted protesters at a town hall in his home state of Utah on Thursday.