Several dozen students and at least one faculty member stood and turned their backs on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Monday during her commencement address at the University of Baltimore.
However, the protesters remained silent, and DeVos was able to give her speech without interruption.
The secretary received a mixture of boos and applause as she took the podium, according to the Washington Times. Some of the assembled family and friends in the audience also stood and turned their backs on DeVos.
“You are each unique – truly one of a kind,” she said. “And if that is the case, then we must admit that a one-size-fits-all approach to education – at any stage – will not work. We must stop suggesting there is only one, conventional path to success.”
— Jonathan McCall (@JonathanMcCall) December 18, 2017
At one point, DeVos caused some in the audience to chuckle when she said that a secret to success is not to “turn your back on a commitment.”
A CBS Baltimore video showed about 50 protesters gather outside the venue before her speech and chant, “Betsy DeVos is not for me! ABCDEFG.” Some demonstrators also wore buttons reading, “Support & Defend Public Schools.”
DeVos is a leading advocate of school choice, including charter schools and vouchers.
When University of Baltimore President Kurt Schmoke decided in September to invite DeVos to the fall commencement, it prompted a petition drive to rescind the invitation. However, Schmoke believed the secretary’s presence would be a great honor for his university.
“There are over 1,400 universities in this country, and the Department of Education is involved in the lives of those universities and the schools of our cities, towns and states around the country, and it’s amazing and I think quite an honor to have the person whose policy recommendations will have such an impact on not only education but the quality of life of many of us,” Schmoke said, according to the Washington Times.
DeVos has faced graduation-day hecklers before. In May, she was drowned out by jeers during her address at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida.