Secretary of Education Betsey DeVos doesn't have many friends among the Stoneman Douglas High School students who have been agitating for stricter gun control regulations in the wake of a mass shooting that took place there last month.
DeVos took a short trip down to Florida to meet with survivors of the Parkland shooting, but the students she met with were "frustrated," they told Buzzfeed, because she refused to answer pointed questions about guns in schools, arming teachers, and whether she believed there should be further curbs on Second Amendment rights to prevent further incidents.
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
Literally no one asked for this https://t.co/79A54IbIht— Sarah Chadwick// #NEVERAGAIN (@sarahchad_) March 7, 2018
Good thing I was already planning on sleeping in tomorrow https://t.co/Oy6ALcDHLZ— Emma González (@Emma4Change) March 7, 2018
The "#NeverAgain" moniker is designed to indicate that the Parkland student is one of those currently on a national campaign to prevent gun violence, accompanied by representatives from several major "gun safety" organizations, like Giffords and Everytown for Gun Safety — so the students who objected to DeVos's visit are a very specific subset.
DeVos later told reporters that she was just there for a comforting visit and to get an understanding of the situation on the ground. She suggested that if students were interested in an interactive session, she could visit again and speak with student journalists, or take questions from members of the student body selected ahead of time.
"I was just there to be there — to be with them," she told reporters. That's not unusual. Members of a presidential administration frequently meet with disaster survivors in the days and weeks following the incident as a way of communicating the government's interest in helping them recover.
But, in this case, they really did not want to be with her.
Ahead of her visit, some of the activist students under the banner "#NeverAgain," tried to organize a walkout to protest . . . something.
Can we like have a walkout on @BetsyDeVosED ?— Jose Iglesias // #NEVERAGAIN (@Joseforchange) March 7, 2018
Others took to Twitter to comment how grateful they were that their national tour kept them away from school for DeVos's visit.
Thank God I’ll still be in New York. I don’t wanna see her face on my campus https://t.co/GhI566jk1t— Ryan DeWerff // #NEVERAGAIN (@ryan_dewerff) March 7, 2018
The strategy seems ill-advised, particularly when in the past few weeks these same students have been trying to hammer home that their cause isn't uniquely partisan, and that they are willing to work with whomever will take their concerns seriously. Given the political landscape, friends and allies in the Trump Administration would certainly be useful.