During a scheduled tour of a Washington D.C. public school, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was blocked by protesters from entering one of the facility's entrances (video below).
The incident underscores the controversy surrounding the Michigan billionaire, who was narrowly confirmed as education secretary on Feb. 7.
On Feb. 10, DeVos arrived at Jefferson Middle School Academy in Washington, D.C., her first appearance public school since being confirmed. She was met with met a demonstration at the building's entrance, comprised of protesters concerned about her past advocacy for school privatization.
DeVos attempted to enter the facility through a side entrance but was physically blocked by protesters. The education secretary turned back and was escorted to her government vehicle. She was later able to tour the middle school through a different entrance.
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The demonstration outside of the facility was spearheaded by members of the Washington Teachers Union, although it was unaffiliated protesters who had physically barred DeVos from entering the school, WJLA reports.
After protesters began to return home, DeVos emerged from the facility after taking a tour and provided a short statement.
"It was really wonderful to visit this school, and I look forward to many visits of many great public schools, both in D.C. and around the country," DeVos said, according to The Washington Post. "Thanks very much."
Elizabeth Davis, president of the Washington Teachers Union, asserted during the protest that her peers had gathered to express their opposition to DeVos' perceived plans to encourage school privatization.
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"We want to share the message that we love our public school system," Davis said. "Public education teachers believe that public education is the cornerstone, it's the foundation of our society."
One education staff member of Jefferson who requested anonymity told reporters that she believed DeVos had merely visited the facility to have a photo opportunity with the school's predominantly African-American student body.
DeVos' confirmation hearings had been among the most high-profile and controversial of the Trump administration Cabinet appointees. Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote for her confirmation, the first time that a vice president has had to tip the scales for a Cabinet appointee in U.S. history, according to NBC News.
The education secretary did not attend a public school and has no previous experience as an educator. Public school advocates have pointed to DeVos' history as a charter school advocate in Michigan as evidence for their concern that she will work to funnel federal funding for public education towards school vouchers.
"She's overseen Michigan's proliferation of unregulated charter schools as well as the siphoning of public funds ... from public education into private accounts," associate professor David Kirkland of NYU Steinhardt told Business Insider.