U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Wednesday visited Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, site of the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 people. And while she spoke afterwards – and off-site – to the national press corps, one select news outlet got a bird’s-eye view: The Eagle Eye, Stoneman Douglas’ student newspaper, which produced the only firsthand account of the visit.
DeVos’ schedule this week noted that her visit to Stoneman Douglas was closed to the press, but a small student press pool followed the Trump Cabinet member around as she met with Broward County Schools representatives, grief counselors and students, then laid a wreath along a fence that surrounds the site of the shooting.
The account, posted by Stoneman Douglas junior Rebecca Schneid, noted that DeVos met with Principal Ty Thompson and his staff, as well as a few students, at least one of whom posed a thorny question about gun safety.
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Senior Kyra Parrow asked DeVos how she’d prevent future school shootings – Schneid reported that DeVos said she wanted to “ensure that the students of our country are able to pursue their learning in a safe environment. I am going to make sure that we bring forward solutions that communities can put in place that will be appropriate for their surroundings and will ensure that they can care for their students.”
That answer apparently wasn’t satisfactory to Parrow, who later said, “It’s nice that she came to give us condolences, but we are so done with thoughts and prayers. We want action.”
Parrow added, “She didn’t come to inform us or talk about how we are going to fix this issue; she just came to say that she came. That disappoints me.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks during a press conference held at the Heron Bay Marriott about her visit to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on March 7, 2018, in Coral Springs, Fla. (Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)
English teacher Melissa Falkowski, who advises the newspaper, also wondered about DeVos’ visit. “I’m not really sure what the purpose of her visit was because she didn’t meet formally with any teachers or students,” Falkowski told . “Her being here, I don’t think is going to result in any help or change.”
After the visit, DeVos spoke briefly to reporters, defending President Trump’s proposal to arm teachers “who are expert in being able to defend and having lots and lots of training to do so.”
After the event, one journalist quipped that DeVos answered only five questions before leaving the room.
Eagle Eye editor and senior Carly Novell later tweeted, “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.”
DeVos has already met previously with Parkland community members, saying in a March 2 statement, “The strength shown by these students, family members and educators is an inspiration to us all.”
She added, “My heart is broken for the students, teachers and families who have had to endure this unthinkable tragedy. I am committed to helping identify solutions to prevent another tragedy like this one from happening again.”
In late February, DeVos also hosted Stoneman Douglas parents, students and teachers, joining them during a White House session on school safety.
On Wednesday, DeVos told reporters, “I was just there to be there, to be with them,” adding that she told the students “that I would love to come back sometime, in an appropriate amount of time, and just sit down and talk to them.”
Alyson Sheehy, a yearbook editor who was part of the student press pool, told TIME, “We would welcome it, but if she pulls the same thing she did today, we’re not going to take it.”
Follow Greg Toppo on Twitter: @gtoppo
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