Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who have been organizing for gun control since the deadly massacre at their school on Valentine's Day, were frustrated that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos didn't engage more with them or address any of their concerns during a visit to the school Wednesday.
In tweets and texts, the Parkland, Florida, students spoke out about DeVos's visit.
Students said she barely spoke to anyone and didn't answer questions, and accused her of using the visit for publicity.
Prior to DeVos’s visit, some students considered organizing a walkout in protest, with one student saying he was glad to miss the visit entirely.
Others said they were looking forward to speaking with her.
Following her remarks, some of the student activists said they were left disappointed that she didn't spend more time with the students.
Taking just five questions in a brief press conference following the visit, DeVos did not share specifics of what she discussed with students or which gun control policies she supports as Secretary of Education.
"I told the student newspaper reporters that I would love to come back in an appropriate amount of time and just sit down and talk with them," she said.
She added that she believes "arming teachers" is not a program that "needs to be required or mandated for every community."
Some students at Stoneman Douglas, under the banner of a group called "Never Again," have been specifically advocating for a ban on assault rifles, among other gun reform policies. Asked whether she supports any of the measures the students have proposed, such as a ban on assault rifles, DeVos said, "The president has advanced a number of issues that Congress will have to consider.”
"There is an opportunity to take practical steps that many people agree on that have support at the federal level,” she said. "I think it's important to take a robust inventory of what states and communities are doing" and to encourage others to adopt those that have been successful."
Reporters asked if she had any specific examples in mind.
"We'll have more on that in the future,” she said.
As to the reason for her visit, DeVos said, "I was just there to be there — to be with them."
Cora Lewis is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Cora Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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