Upon hearing that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos would visit the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High campus after the school shooting that killed 17 people, the student Emma González was wary: “Good thing I was already planning on sleeping in tomorrow,” she tweeted. Other students at Stoneman Douglas reacted in much the same way. “Literally no one asked for this,” Sarah Chadwick, another student, tweeted, referring to DeVos’s visit. It seems this was a popular sentiment—both tweets have received tens of thousands of likes.
DeVos’s visit itself didn’t do much to turn things around. According to a Department of Education press release, she “met with students, teachers, and administrators” and designed the trip based on recommendations from the school principal over how to minimize disruption for the students’ first full day back at school. But after the event, both students and teachers criticized the education secretary for not engaging one-on-one with enough of them and for failing to answer all of their questions, particularly about her plans for preventing future school shootings. Journalists also reported that DeVos abruptly ended her press conference following the visit, after answering just a handful of inquiries. One student tweeted:
Betsy Devos came to my school, talked to three people, and pet a dog. This is incase the press tries to say something else later— Alanna//#NEVERAGAIN (@AgCI3Cu2) March 7, 2018
That students were skeptical of DeVos wasn’t surprising: The public typically expects an education secretary to offer comfort and direction in the aftermath of a shooting, yet DeVos and the Trump administration already have been known to have a controversial stance on how to address gun violence in schools. As a delegate of the Trump administration, DeVos represents a president who has been a vocal supporter of gun rights, as well as a political party that has strong ties to the National Rifle Association. DeVos herself has also drawn ire for her public commentary on guns, most notoriously for her suggestion at her 2017 confirmation hearing that guns might have a place in schools because of the threat of grizzly bears.