U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos held a number of “listening sessions” at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday, but some students weren’t happy with the visit.
DeVos was there on the first full day of classes since the Feb. 14 mass shooting that killed 17 people and wounded at least 16 others.
“We’re committed not only to listening but to action,” she told reporters afterward, although she never gave specifics during a nine-minute briefing at a Coral Springs hotel.
Before she arrived, several students expressed displeasure at the prospect of her visit.
“Good thing I was already planning on sleeping in tomorrow,” tweeted senior Emma Gonzalez, a leader in the student movement from stricter gun control.
“Literally no one asked for this,” tweeted another student, Sarah Chadwick, who also has been active in the gun-control movement.
“I did, actually,” Kyle Kashuv, a conservative student at the school who opposes the gun restrictions supported by many of his fellow students. “@BetsyDeVosED @BetsyDeVos is an American patriot and is the Sec. of EDUCATION which means she is a great person to talk with about SCHOOL safety.”
Reporters were not allowed to come on campus during her visit, but many students used social media to say they were unimpressed.
“Betsy DeVos came to my school, talked to three people, and pet a dog,” tweeted one student named Alanna. “This is in case the press tries to say something else later.”
Another student played off a DeVos tweet in which the education secretary wrote, “Be different. Be bold. Try something unexpected. Do something new.”
“Do something unexpected: answer our questions,” wrote Aly Sheehy. “ You came to our school just for publicity and avoided our questions for the 90 minutes you were actually here. How about you actually do your job?”
DeVos said students gave her mixed responses as to how they were doing.
“Some are doing quite well, but all acknowledge it’s a day-to-day situation,” she said. “Some students who were in the building involved, it’s very tough for them.”
The education secretary also met with students on the school newspaper.
“They were obviously very interested in seeing what the adults are going to do about this situation, what they’re doing to find common solutions,” she said.
She said she supported proposals to arm staff who receive extensive training if communities want it. She said she doesn’t think it should be forced on school districts.
She cited a program in Polk County as a model, even though current state law doesn’t permit anyone other than law enforcement officers in Polk County, or any other district, to have guns on campus. The sheriff there has started a program to train educators at private colleges, as well as public institutions if it becomes legal.
Erika Pesantes contributed to this report.