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High school journalists take on Betsy DeVos in editorial after being barred from event

Posted at 5:52 PM, Apr 22, 2019

Kentucky high school student journalists penned an editorial taking on Betsy DeVos after they say security turned them away from an event held on a public college campus that featured the secretary of education.

In an editorial titled "No Seat at the Roundtable," student journalists attending Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington, Kentucky, say they were barred from covering the event last Wednesday because they didn't have an invitation.

"We are student journalists who wanted to cover an event in our community featuring the Secretary of Education, but ironically, we couldn't get in without an invitation," the editorial posted on the student newspaper's website, the PLD Lamplighter, reads.

The students note the Education Department's website lists the event as "open press."

"Doesn't open press imply open to ALL press including students?" the editorial asks.

In the editorial, the high school students wondered why the information about the event was shared "a little more than 24 hours before the event," and wrote: "When the Secretary of Education is visiting your city, you'd think you'd have a little more of a heads up."

"We can't help but suspect that the intention was to prevent people from attending," they continued. "Also, it was held at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday. What student or educator is free at that time?"

The event, which also featured Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, was held at the Bluegrass Community Technical College's Newtown campus and was billed as a "Roundtable on Education Freedom Scholarships."

The students said they heard about the event the day before, on April 16, from social media and local news reports and "immediately began making plans to be there because as young journalists, we appreciate any opportunity received to demonstrate our professionalism."

"These types of events are where we learn, and chances like this do not come around often," they wrote.

A spokesperson for the college, Michelle Sjogren, told the student newspaper that its security personnel for the event "were working off of instructions from Secretary DeVos' team. "

"They were told there was an invitation list," Sjogren told the paper. "The instructions we were given were that whoever is coming in needs to be on the list."

Sjogren continued: "They're doing their job, and we're doing our job."

Department of Education press secretary Liz Hill told CNN she was on site for the event and said she was "never made aware, nor was anyone from the secretary's staff made aware that student journalists were attempting to attend the event."

"We welcome all journalists who RSVP to our events," Hill said.

She continued: "All journalists are required to RSVP, but if someone had come up to me and said, 'Hey we've got student journalists who'd like to come in,' they would've been more than welcome. We've never turned away student journalists at any event that we've ever done."