Donald Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in an event that was closed to the media but closely observed by teenagers at the school and documented on social media. She didn’t receive a warm welcome.
As Variety reports, DeVos stopped by the school exactly three weeks to the day following a mass shooting that left 17 people dead. What happened during her visit is a matter of dispute. DeVos held a press conference afterward, during which she said she met with “many of the faculty, many of the students, much of the leadership from this community.” She also claimed that she and community members discussed solutions to the problem of gun violence in schools.
Similarly, according to CNN, DeVos met with principal Ty Thompson, and the two laid a wreath near the site of the shooting.
Teenagers who were there, however, paint a different picture of what happened.
One Twitter user, claiming to be a student at the school, says DeVos’ visit was brief and uneventful.
“Betsy Devos came to my school, talked to three people, and pet a dog. This is incase [sic] the press tries to say something else later.”
Another user shared a screenshot of a group text, purportedly from Stoneman students discussing DeVos’ apparent lack of interest in them or their concerns.
— Lex (@lexforchange) March 7, 2018
According to the Broward County Sun-Sentinel, some students were as uninterested in visiting with DeVos as she was apparently uninterested in visiting with them. Senior Emma Gonzalez, one of the Parkland students who has become an active gun-control advocate following the shooting, said that she deliberately took the day off from school.
“Good thing I was already planning on sleeping in tomorrow.”
Another student, Sarah Chadwick, tweeted, “Literally no one asked for this.”
However, at least one Douglas student was glad DeVos stopped by. Kyle Kashuv, who has emerged as one of the school’s conservative students and who has been vocal about his opposition to gun control, tweeted in response to Sarah.
“@BetsyDeVos is an American patriot and is the Sec. of EDUCATION which means she is a great person to talk with about SCHOOL safety.”
Ever since the February 14 mass shooting, according to the Atlantic, the Parkland students themselves have changed the narrative of the ongoing debate about gun control and school shootings. Several students, on both sides of the issue, have become symbols of the discussion. Parkland students mobilized themselves to march on Tallahassee, to demand gun control from Florida’s legislature, and have even raised close to $4 million for further gun-control events.
Democrat Mike Thompson, of California, praised the Parkland students for taking up the discussion.
“Maybe it’s the organic nature, I’m not sure, but it just feels different. And God knows we need it to be different.”