East Hartford teachers protested outside of the high school on Tuesday morning to send a message to the National Education Secretary.
Betsy Devos called East Hartford High School a "dangerous daycare" last week during a speech. The move sparked outrage among educators in the district.
Rep. John Larson, Gov. Dannel Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and state Department of Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell addressed the comments made by Devos on Tuesday morning at East Hartford High School.
They spoke around 10:15 a.m.
"I've looked at [Devos'] schedule and she's gone to schools all across the country for her to generalize," Larson said.
Demonstrators kicked off their efforts at 6:30 a.m. See photos of the protest here.
"I think it's totally unwarranted and unfair," said Cara Quinn of East Hartford. "Our school system makes every effort to educate the whole child, every child every day."
Ahead of the rally, teachers made signs that contained messages about keeping public money in public schools and "East Hartford Strong."
They showed off those signs to stand up for the district.
"I made this one last night," said Jaden Oliveras, a senior at East Hartford High School. "This was our motto during our basketball team season. 'We are hornets.' I highlighted 'we are one to be together at all times.'"
Secretary Devos brought up East Hartford schools during a House Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing last week. She said she met a man named "Michael" who grew up in East Hartford.
According to her remarks, Michael told her that students "really ruled the classroom at the high school, and it was an adult daycare."
Devos used it as an example, saying there are millions of students just like Michael who are trapped in schools that fail to meet their needs and that fail to unlock their potential.
"Michael got a diploma, but not an education," Devos said. "Michael's story is important because there are literally millions of students in this country just like him. The system simply passes them along."
East Hartford teachers fired back by criticizing Devos for not stepping foot in one of the schools to assess the situation for herself.
"Teachers know and students know and parents know DeVos got it wrong and they deserve to have their voices heard about what makes our schools great," said Annie Irvine, an East Hartford teacher.
About 100 protesters took part in the event which ended after about a half hour so students could get to class on time.
"I'm just really proud of everyone who came up here and stand up for the image of our school," said Tasnim Islam, a junior. "It shows that if something is said or observed, that's truly inaccurate that we're going to stand up for that."
Islam was one of five students who wrote a letter to Devos.
The community is hoping their message will reach Washington DC to not only show Devos how much they love their district, but also that funding should not be cut.
Rep. John Larson, who also spoke at the rally, joined parents, teachers and students in inviting Devos to the high school to see it for herself. They're hoping she can experience "a day in the life" of an East Hartford student.
"You walk into our classrooms and see very dedicated professionals and students learning high quality level things. She should be our biggest supporter, and right now she's our biggest adversary," Irvine said.
The Connecticut Education and the East Hartford Education Associations also attended Tuesday morning's rally.
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