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High school journalists blast Betsy DeVos in op-ed after being turned away from roundtable discussion
A group of Kentucky high school student journalists blasted U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in an op-ed in their school paper after the teens say they were unfairly turned away from a roundtable discussion on education. They were led to believe the event was open to all members of the media.
The students from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington were looking forward to attending the event on Friday at Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC), where DeVos was to meet with Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin to discuss, among other things, her support of the federal scholarship tax credit legislation. The initiative would use public tax dollars to fund “freedom” scholarships to private schools.
The teen journalists had planned to cover the event for the PLD Lamplighter, their school paper, and took their cue to attend from DeVos herself, who urged students last fall at a Town Hall on First Amendment rights to engage in person with those who have differing viewpoints.
“It is easy to be nasty hiding behind screens and Twitter handles,” DeVos said at the time, according to CBS News. “It’s not so easy face to face.”
The event was of particular significance to the students because teachers in Kentucky have opposed the federal scholarships, a.k.a. school choice legislation, in Kentucky’s General Assembly. But when the teens showed up to the roundtable at BCTC, they were reportedly denied entrance by campus security guards because they were not on the RSVP list.
The students, who had presented both their school identification and their press credentials at the door, said they did not not know RSVPs were necessary for an event that was advertised as “open to the press.” But they thought it was reasonable to expect they’d be allowed to attend anyway, as DeVos’ legislation would affect them directly.
Realizing that sitting out the discussion would mean they wouldn’t get the story they’d planned on, the students decided to explore a new angle — one in which they’d become a part of their own piece. “It was then that our story turned from news coverage to editorial,” they told the Washington Post.
While researching their story, the students discovered they weren’t the only ones who had been allegedly shunned from the event. According to them, no public school teachers, parents or students — key stakeholders, they said — had been invited.
The snubs seemed intentional to them, as they argue that the organizers of the roundtable failed to widely publicize the invite- and RSVP-only criteria. “Doesn’t ‘open press’ imply open to all press including students?” they asked.
On Saturday, the students published their op-ed, ‘No Seat At the Roundtable,’ on PLD Lamplighter’s website. In the piece, authors Olivia Doyle and Abigail Wheatley describe the scenario of being denied entry by “a man wearing a BCTC badge on his blazer.” At the time, they said were advised by a teacher to try to get in again, and if they still were denied, to demand to know why.
“Instead of listening to our questions, he just repeated, ‘Sorry. It’s invitation only,’” the students wrote.
“Not that we’re happy about it, but we understand why a student news organization wouldn’t have been considered important enough to receive a copy of the media press release. But there was no mention of an invitation,” wrote the students, who had learned of the event on social media and through their local news. “How do you RSVP when there is no invitation?”
DeVos is concerned much more about student tuition and how she can channel those taxpayer dollars to private institutions no matter what they may teach than she is about students. As an example there is no justification for using taxpayer funds to support a required Liberty University curriculum that includes pseudo science and ultra conservative values. That’s just wrong and so is DeVos.
". . . those who claim to know the Mind of God, who will tell you what God thinks and how He will judge and condemn others—those people are the greatest of all blasphemers." Aloysius Xingu Leng Pendergast
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