On Wednesday, DeVos was given an honorary doctorate from Bethune-Cookman but her speech was interrupted by booing on a number of occasions. DeVos did not have an understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act which is a federal law that requires public schools to provide appropriate education to students with disabilities.
The Trump administration has been reaching out to historically black colleges as it attempts to build support for a major school choice reform push, but many at B-CU saw DeVos as taking no interest in their school, and rather taking advantage of a photo opportunity. "Your degrees will be mailed to you".
Bethune-Cookman, an HBCU in Daytona Beach, Florida, had invited DeVos just last week, stating DeVos' "mission to empower parents and students resonates with the history and legacy" of Mary McLeod Bethune, the college's founder. However, basically her entire speech was drowned out by "deafening" boos, chants, and heckles from the students and families attending the ceremony. Receiving the award, she said she is "honored to be a Wildcat"-leading to the loudest jeers of all". Thousands of people around the country had signed a petition asking the school to rescind its invitation, calling it an "insult" to the graduating class. Dozens of protesters stood outside the off-campus graduation venue holding placards reading "Grads Yes, DeVos No".
"As we have said repeatedly, be careful of the people you let in your place", Jackson said, seeming to acknowledge the criticism.
DeVos looks forward "to engaging in productive dialogue with the students, faculty and staff during her visit", said Department of Education spokeswoman Liz Hill. Critics say she is also ignoring the fact that charter or religion-based schools may not provide an equal quality of education. "So why wouldn't we want to make friends?"
DeVos' conservative Republican background and strong views on educational policy attracted strong opposition when President Donald Trump named her to his Cabinet this year.
The school's administration did not relent, however, and by Wednesday afternoon, it was clear that a good deal of attention would indeed be given to DeVos' controversial speech at the ceremony. "Ladies and gentleman, please, you don't know her, nor do you know her story", Jackson responded.
The Education Secretary didn't face the boos alone.