WASHINGTON — Two days into her tenure as secretary of education, Betsy DeVos was blocked by protesters from entering a public school in Washington, DC, on Friday morning. After a man threw himself in front of a staircase leading into the school, DeVos was forced return to her car, a small number of protesters chasing after her. One held a "Black Lives Matter" sign and chanted repeatedly, "Shame!"
A video posted by local TV station WJLA showed the incident, in which DeVos looked shaken. One protester cried, "She does not represent anything we stand for!"
DC police said that they arrested one man at the protest for allegedly assaulting an officer. Police are investigating allegations that DeVos was assaulted, as well, a police department spokesperson added.
It appeared that DeVos was eventually able to enter the school, Jefferson Academy in Washington, DC, through another door, according to a post on Twitter that showed her inside the school with Antwan Wilson, DC public schools chancellor. In the front of the school, a larger group of protesters also chanted and surrounded government vehicles, according to videos posted on Twitter.
During her confirmation process, DeVos faced intense criticism — that she knew little about the public school system she had been appointed to oversee, having spent her career focused solely on charter and private schools.
DeVos's nomination for education secretary attracted more public outcry than any other of Trump's Cabinet picks. Her opponents, including many teachers, deluged congressional phone lines to implore their senators to vote against her. Two Republicans said they could not support her, leading Vice President Mike Pence to break a tie on her nomination — marking the first time that a vice president has done so for a Cabinet nominee.
A small number of protesters also greeted DeVos on her first day of work at the Education Department on Wednesday, holding signs that read "Resist" and chanting, "Welcome to your first day, we will not go away." On Thursday, DeVos made her first visit to a university as education secretary, stopping at Howard University in Washington, DC.
In a statement after the incident at Jefferson, DeVos said she was "honored" to meet with the team at the middle school "about our shared commitment to public education."
“I respect peaceful protest, and I will not be deterred in executing the vital mission of the Department of Education," she said. "No school door in America will be blocked from those seeking to help our nation’s school children.”