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At Betsy DeVos’ KC Academy visit, protesters voice support for LGBT students, public schools

Protesters say DeVos policies will push country backward toward 'savage inequalities'

When U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited Kansas City Academy in Waldo Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, as part of her during DeVos' "Rethink Schools" tour, protesters met her with a demonstration. Video by Jill Toyoshiba and Mara' Williams.
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When U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited Kansas City Academy in Waldo Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, as part of her during DeVos' "Rethink Schools" tour, protesters met her with a demonstration. Video by Jill Toyoshiba and Mara' Williams.

At what was predicted to be the largest collection of protesters for a Betsy DeVos appearance, about 150 protesters gathered Friday morning to oppose the education secretary’s stances.

Kansas City Academy, a small private middle and high school, is the latest stop on the DeVos “Rethink School” tour, during which she has carried a message expected to encourage schools to be more innovative.

Protesters began assembling at about 7 a.m., bearing signs that counter some of Devos’ positions.

“Schools need gender free bathrooms,” read one sign. “Education for ALL, not for profit” and “I believe in public ed,” read others.

After a month in her position, DeVos went along with Trump on policy that rescinded an Obama-era guidance instructing schools to allowed students to use the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity.

In speeches she’s delivered during the tour, DeVos has described the format under which most students receive their education — A teacher, facing students seated in rows of desks, and following a curriculum designed for the average student — as, “a mundane malaise that dampens dreams, dims horizons, and denies futures.”

When news leaked that DeVos would visit KC Academy, questions also rose about why this school, known for its liberal, progressive values. It doesn’t fit with a lot of the more conservative-leaning ideas the education secretary has touted since her confirmation in January.

Bob Hoffman came from Johnson County to protest the visit.

He criticized DeVos for supporting vouchers for private school and for her stances on LGBTQ students.

“One of this administration’s objectives is to take taxpayer money and to use it for vouchers to fund private schools,” he said. “Taking money away from our public schools hurts all children — the children who can’t afford to go to public schools vouchers do not cover.”

One person brought along a large stuffed bear with the sign, “Don’t shoot me, Betsy!” It was a reference to Devos’ statement that guns are needed in schools in Wyoming to protect against grizzly bears.

KCA practices radical inclusion and members of its diverse, vocal student body strongly support their LGBTQ classmates.

Concerned about public school privatization and the ability of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to lead the country's education department, a few dozen protesters chanted in front of Johnson County Community College Thursday during DeVos' "

“KC Academy — they pride themselves on their diversity,” Hoffman said. “It’s going to be interesting what goes on inside there. I wish I could be a fly on the wall.”

In recent days leading up to Friday’s visit, students have been outspoken about their dislike for policy endorsed by DeVos, a Republican who has championed school vouchers and charter schools.

On Thursday, DeVos’ visit to Johnson County Community College was also met by protest. More than 50 protesters rallied to criticize what they see as DeVos’ attack on public education and her excessive support for private and for-profit schools.

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Rich Sugg rsugg@kcstar.com

Last month she announced plans to reconstruct Title IX sexual assault guidelines to include more protection for the accused. That moved sparked protests from critics across the country who see it as action that would roll back protections for women who survive sexual violence on college campuses.

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