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Students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were not impressed with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ visit to the school in Parkland, Florida, where just three weeks ago 17 people were gunned down in a mass shooting.
The visit was closed to all reporters, except those associated with the school’s publications. Carly Novell, a senior who edits Eagle Eye, the school newspaper, tweeted that the secretary had “refused to even meet/speak with students” and that “no one followed her.”
One student from each publication (tv prod./newspaper/yearbook) was able to see her and take pictures of her, no one followed her. We are part of a school publication and it's our job to report on a public figure visiting the school. https://t.co/zE48UAFZky— Carly Novell (@car_nove) March 7, 2018
I thought she would at least give us her "thoughts and prayers," but she refused to even meet/speak with students. I don't understand the point of her being here— Carly Novell (@car_nove) March 7, 2018
Outraged, students blasted the visit as a mere publicity stunt.
Do something unexpected: answer our questions. You came to our school just for publicity and avoided our questions for the 90 minutes you were actually here. How about you actually do your job? #neveragain #DoYourJob https://t.co/4Ts0INq0gR— Aly Sheehy (@Aly_Sheehy) March 7, 2018
By the time these accounts were circulating on Twitter, DeVos went into detail a bit about the visit, saying she met with students who told her they were doing well, but acknowledged the recovery is “very tough.”
She also gave credit to the kids speaking out in the wake of the shooting for “finding their voices” and said they hoped they continued and that adults kept listening.
The conference, with reporters from national media outlets, lasted eight minutes, during which time DeVos answered five questions and speak about Trump’s proposal to arm teachers. She said that the issue of arming teachers did not come up in her visit with students.
Education Secretary @BetsyDeVosED only answered around five questions during her press conference here in #Parkland #Florida I was lucky enough to get one of them along with a follow up. You can watch here https://t.co/6IWW7kn0Jr #BetsyDeVos— James LaPorta (@JimLaPorta) March 7, 2018
In the wake of the mass shooting at the school, many of the survivors and students have mobilized as advocates for gun control, calling for a serious political conversation on the issue. The activism is set to take the fight right to Capitol Hill in a ‘March for Our Lives’ protest set for March 24 in Washington, D.C.
The students’ proposals for gun control have been challenged by the National Rifle Association, whose representatives have engaged the young activists in debate on television and online. However, students are becoming increasingly frustrated by lawmakers and, particularly, the Trump administration. That in mind, DeVos’ visit on Wednesday is not likely to ease the tensions or appease the rising movement.
David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology.