Lamplighter Media Productions

Filed under Opinion

No Seat at the Roundtable

When PLD Lamplighter's Editorial Board attempted to cover the education discussion on April 17, they were turned away.

When we, members of PLD Lamplighter’s Editorial Board, arrived at the Bluegrass Community Technical College Newtown Pike campus to cover the roundtable discussion on education hosted by Governor Matt Bevin featuring the Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, we were told we could not enter.

A man wearing a BCTC badge on his blazer approached our car and silently glared at us. Finally, one of our Editors-in-Chief, Abigail Wheatley, said “We’re here for Matt Bevin and Betsy DeVos’s roundtable discussion.”

“Well, okay,” he said. “Who are you with?”

We presented our school identification badges and showed him our press credentials. He nodded as if that would be enough, but then asked us if we had an invitation. We looked at each other, eyes wide with surprise. Invitation? For a roundtable discussion on education?

“Yes, this event is invitation only,” he said and then waved us away.

Carson Sweeney
Unable to even leave our car, we settled for a picture of the campus taken through the window.

At that point, we pulled over and contacted our adviser, Mrs. Wendy Turner. She instructed us to try again and to explain that we were there as press to cover the event for our school newspaper. We at least needed to understand why we were not allowed in, and why it was never publicized as “invitation only.”

We watched as the same man waved other drivers through without stopping them, but he stopped us again. Instead of listening to our questions, he just repeated “Sorry. It’s invitation only.”

Disappointed, we called Mrs. Turner again and explained the situation. We were missing school for this event which had been reported as a “public” event on a public college campus. Unable to ask questions, we settled for a picture from our car.

It was then that our story turned from news coverage to editorial.

After leaving campus, we started looking through social media, seeking information from other journalists’ accounts, and trying to find a live stream.

We scrambled to get ourselves together because we were caught off guard, and we were in a hurry to produce anything we could to cover the event and to meet our deadline. We called our newsroom to get assistance from our other editors. Since we were out on location, we had little to work with.

After more research, we found mentioned on the government website that the meeting needed an RSVP, but there was no mention of an invitation. How do you RSVP when there is no invitation?

On the web site, it also stated that the roundtable was an “open press event.” Doesn’t open press imply open to ALL press including students?

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.

We learned of this event on April 16, as others did, over social media and from our local news stations. At that point, we 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.

It was heartbreaking to us, as young journalists fired up to cover an event regarding the future of education, to leave empty-handed.”

Local news station Lex18 posted its first article regarding the event on April 16 at 10:43 a.m. It discussed how Ms. DeVos would be attending two events in Kentucky, one in Lexington, and the other in Marshall County. There was no mention of an invitation or RSVP needed to attend the event.

Another local station, WKYT, posted its first article regarding this event at 10:44 a.m. There was no mention of an invitation or RSVP needed to attend the event in this article either.

Why was this information only shared a little more than 24 hours before the event? 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. Also, it was held at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday. What student or educator is free at that time?

And as students, we are the ones who are going to be affected by the proposed changes discussed at the roundtable, yet we were not allowed inside. How odd is it that even though future generations of students’ experiences could be based on what was discussed, that we, actual students, were turned away?

We expected the event to be intense. We expected there to be a lot of information to cover. But not being able to exercise our rights under the First Amendment was something we never thought would happen. We weren’t prepared for that.

It was heartbreaking to us, as young journalists fired up to cover an event regarding the future of education, to leave empty-handed. But as we researched we learned that we were not the only ones who were disappointed and frustrated.

There were social media posts that exhibited confusion from parents, students, and educatorsespecially because no public school representatives were participants in the event.

We emailed FCPS Superintendent Manny Caulk to ask if he had been invited, and he answered that he had not.

Of the 173 school districts in Kentucky that deal directly with students, none were represented at the table. Zero. This is interesting because the supposed intention of the event was to include stakeholders–educators, students, and parents.

Fayette County School Board member Tyler Murphy even took to his Twitter to satirize the lack of time DeVos and Bevin took to visit local public school educators.

When we reached out to him via email to explain what we experienced, he responded “If Secretary DeVos wanted a true understanding of our public schools, she should hear from the people who participate in it every day.”

Multiple social media handles on Twitter also tweeted about the event, and that’s how we were able to get information.

For instance, Olivia Krauth of the Insider Louisville live-tweeted the event. She tweeted that Kentucky Commissioner of Education, Wayne Lewis, spoke of the National Freedom Education Scholarship proposal and that it can help fix a shortage in resources in Kentucky, allowing students to participate in dual enrollment or AP classes.

This is a screenshot of a tweet from KEA the day after the round table event.

The Kentucky Educator’s Association tweeted “Public schools in KY are doing transformative and innovative things with less funding. We don’t need vouchers, we need full funding. The picture below isn’t a conversation about educational opportunities, it’s a shareholders meeting about future earnings on the backs of Kentucky’s kids.”

If we had been there, perhaps we could have asked a question about the opportunities we already experience in public schools. What shortage of resources do we have if public schools already have dual enrollment and AP classes with hundreds of student participants? Exactly which resources is Commissioner Lewis referring to?

It was interesting to us that after the event, Governor Matt Bevin said “The people here care about the kids. Every single person who sat around this table cares about the children — not about funding, not about territory, not about power, not about politics.”

He added, “They care about parents and they care about students and it was a broad representation of people who care about those things.”

Being locked out of the event, and having access to little information beyond what we were seeing on social media, we discovered a few professional journalists who were allowed to be present at the roundtable discussion.

We reached out to them and asked if they had received an invitation, or if one had been requested from them upon entering the event. All of them responded that they only had to RSVP after seeing a press release on April 16.

Not that we’re happy about it, but we understand why a student news organization wouldn’t have been considered important enough to receive a copy of the media press release; however, we wonder why we were the only ones asked for an actual invitation? It seems that no one else received any hard copies of invitations. And why, after our explanation that we were not given the press release asking for an RSVP, weren’t we allowed to enter as students and stakeholders?

After speaking with BCTC’s Associate VP for Strategic Communications, Michelle Sjogren, on April 19, she informed us that BCTC was contacted through the state to host the event “fewer than two weeks ago.”

She said BCTC was strictly a venue and invitations were determined by Secretary DeVos’ office, and that BCTC was simply provided with a list of who responded as RSVP.

“Our security people were working off of instructions from Secretary DeVos’ team. They were told there was an invitation list. The instructions we were given were that whoever is coming in needs to be on the list,” she said.

“They’re doing their job, and we’re doing our job,” Ms. Sjogren said.

As we continued to search for information about why a closed event was held on a public college campus, we met with BCTC President, Dr. Koffi Akakpo, and Ms. Sjogren on April 22. Dr. Akakpo, who said he been on the job for 10 weeks, said that he received a call on April 5 to reserve a room that could hold 25-50 people.

So, if there was intent to include a variety of stakeholders at the meeting, why did they ask for such a small space?

Lexington Herald-Leader Reporter, Valarie Honeycutt-Spears, who wrote a story about our experience, shared a statement attributed to U.S. Department of Education Press Secretary Liz Hill.

It reads “No one from the Secretary’s staff was made aware that student journalists were attempting to attend the roundtable. We welcome student journalists and would have been happy for them to be in attendance. We are looking into what, if any, miscommunication might have happened between other staff on site for the event.”

So, Secretary DeVos’ office did not anticipate that student journalists might want to come? And BCTC was just a venue providing security to act as gatekeepers based on a list?

Ms. Sjogren said that BCTC would add PLD Lamplighter on her media list so that we would receive press releases in the future.

Although we are appreciative of BCTC’s effort to include us on their media in the future, we believe it should be common practice for all organizations to include student journalists in the distribution of press releases.

It should be noted that when the Governor and Secretary DeVos had their second roundtable in Benton, there are pictures of students in attendance including a young man who appears to be a student photographer. We understand that their visit to Marshall County High School was not to discuss school choice but to award a well-deserved grant to the school community that suffered an unimaginable loss on January 3, 2018.

Although we certainly support what occurred during the visit to Benton, we think it’s appropriate to note that students were allowed to be present at that event because it was not controversial, but they were not allowed to be present at the one in Lexington because it was.

We wonder if the topic of school choice at the roundtable in Lexington is what kept public school students from being able to attend. Don’t they want student input? After all, Secretary DeVos once said at a town hall meeting that “It is easy to be nasty hiding behind screens and Twitter handles,” she said. “It’s not so easy face-to-face.”

I guess we won’t get that face-to-face opportunity.

We learned that one student was at the roundtable. Her name is Aaliyah Alim, and she currently attends Centre College, a privately owned institution. She attended Mercy Academy in Louisville, an all girls Roman Catholic school.

We asked how she received her invitation. She said, “I was invited along with my mom. We sat at the table and were given the chance to ask question of DeVos and Bevin.”

She said that “most, if not all, of the invited were from the Kentucky government. I was the only student at the table and I was invited because of a scholarship program I was a part of in Louisville.”

She said she only asked one question at the event, and it was concerning scholarships funding gaps for K-11 school choice. She told us the response was “people/businesses can choose where their money goes essentially.”

The bottom line is that we do not think that it is fair to have a closed roundtable about education when it affects thousands of Kentucky teachers, students, and parents.

Governor Bevin is quoted as saying “It is remarkable to me that this is even remotely debatable.”

Well, Governor, when public school students can’t attend a roundtable discussion about what’s best for students, how can you possibly be surprised that people are upset?

There was a lesson in this experience, though. We learned that the job of a journalist is to chase the story by any means necessary. We learned to be resourceful and meet our deadline even if it wasn’t in the way we initially intended. And we learned that although students aren’t always taken seriously, we have to continue to keep trying to have a seat at the table.

Update: We updated this article at 6:53 p.m. on April 18 to include a quote from Tyler Murphy.

Update: We updated this article at 11:24 a.m. on April 19 to include a list of the participants at the round table which was released in a news release issued by the Bluegrass Institute: In addition to Ms. DeVos and Gov. Bevin, attendees included Wayne Lewis, Kentucky Education Commissioner; Kathy Gornik, KBE Supreme Court District 5 member; Derrick Ramsey, Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet; Linda Hampton, Governor’s Office of Early Childhood; Hal Heiner, Dr. Gary Houchens, and Milton Seymore of the Kentucky Board of Education; Kristina Slattery, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development Business Groups; Iris Wilbur, Greater Louisville Inc.; Andi Johnson, Commerce Lexington.

Stakeholders included Ryan Cantrell, American Federation for Children; Andrew McNeill, Americans for Prosperity; Andrew Vandiver, Catholic Conference of Kentucky; Jim Waters, Bluegrass Institute; Charles Leis, Ed Choice Kentucky; Deana Paradis, Kentucky Association of Independent Schools; Dr. Kris Williams, Chancellor, Kentucky Community and Technical College System; Aaron Thompson, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education; Heather Huddleston, School Choice Kentucky; Kesia Alim Hatcher, parent, and Aaliyah Alim, student.

We are attempting to contact Ms. Alim to get her perspective as a student.

Update: We updated this article at 3:39 p.m. on April 19 to include a quote from the US Department of Education Press Secretary, Liz Hill, and information from BCTC’s Associate VP for Strategic Communications, Michelle Sjogren.

Update: We were able to contact Ailiyah Alim, the only student at the roundtable, at 5:45 pm on April 19, and we updated this article to include quotes from her.

Update: We added a link to the article written by Valarie Honeycutt-Spears at 7:40 a.m. on April 20.

Update: We added a quote and information at 9:22 a.m. on April 22 after a meeting at 8:45 a.m. with BCTC President Koffi Akakpo and Associate VP for Strategic Communications, Michelle Sjogren.

Photo Editor Carson Sweeney contributed to this article.

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About the Contributors
Olivia Doyle, Editor-In-Chief

My name is Olivia Doyle. For the beginning half of this year, I was Public Relations Manager. Now, I have taken over as an Editor-in-Chief. I am in my...

Abigail Wheatley, Editor-in-Chief

My name is Abigail Wheatley and this is my third year with PLD Lamplighter. Journalism is my love and special education is my passion. I'm fortunate enough...


63 Responses to “No Seat at the Roundtable”

  1. Polly Lusk Page on April 18th, 2019 9:31 PM

    Thank you for your perseverance! You are making a difference in seeking the truth for the public. Keep up the good work.

  2. Jason Meenach on April 18th, 2019 9:48 PM

    I really appreciate the Lamplighter Staff and enjoy reading you, ESPECIALLY this story. I’m sorry for your experience at this Roundtable event; thank you for sharing.

    Best wishes,
    Jason Meenach
    Douglass HS

  3. Doris McFarland on April 18th, 2019 10:20 PM

    Way to go! You took a negative experience and turned it into something great! It is so sad our Govenor is so against public education. Ms. DeVos has no idea what public education is as she has proven on many talk and news programs she has been on. 60 Minutes was by her worst performance!
    Now if you really want to change things, make sure all of your friends are registered to vote and that they go vote on May 21 and in November. It’s the only way things will get changed. If you are going to be 18 by the November election, you can vote in May! Call the Fayette County Clerk’s Office and someone will come to PLD to register voters.
    I am a retired teacher, one of Bevin’s “thugs.” I really hate what he is trying to do to education in Kentucky. It is up to you young people to make the changes we need!

    Doris McFarland, retired teacher at Paris Independent Schools

  4. Gerry Adair on April 19th, 2019 8:41 AM

    An articulate and well-written op Ed addressing a grievous injustice. I am meeting with BCTC president Dr. Koffi Akakpo at 10 this morning to discuss my displeasure with the concept of closed meetings being held at BCTC. I will mention your article.
    In the meantime, consider two follow-up stories. First, get a list of the attendees and ask for either their response to the meeting or for interviews.
    Second, Dr Akopko is very accessible. Call his office and request an interview.

    With admiration and respect,

    Gerry Adair
    Associate Professor

  5. Tom Eblen on April 19th, 2019 12:40 PM

    Excellent work. It’s reassuring that fine public school teachers such as Wendy Turner are training the next generation of journalists. Keep up the good work, and don’t give up.

  6. Gail Wright on April 19th, 2019 1:50 PM

    Congratulations on your excellent writing, detailed research (even when thwarted by those in charge of this event) and for your persistence. As students, you are demonstrating the BEST of FCPS and representing many students in the state who work hard, take advantage of,what they are offered by their educators and prepare for their next chapters in life. The scheduling and experience of this “[email protected]” is NOT accidental nor is it appropriate in any way. Wayne Lewis and Betsy DeVos are BOTH commissioners of education, one at the state level the other nationally! Their task SHOULD be to advance public education, not systematically approve the starvation of public schools by diverting funds to vouchers for,private schools and charters. Keep shining your light on both the wrongs and rights….you are our future!

  7. Jonna Hayden on April 19th, 2019 5:33 PM

    Very well researched and written!

  8. Jonna Hayden on April 19th, 2019 5:35 PM

    Very well researched and written! Thank you for your hardwork!

    Jonna Hayden
    EJH Middle School

  9. Patricia Calvert on April 19th, 2019 8:27 PM

    Thank you, Lamplighter staff, for reporting your struggles to be part of the process. As stakeholders, you should have been welcomed at the table. Instead, Ms DeVos thinks that, by not “inviting” students, she can more easily push her anti-public school agenda. Continue to persist and let your voices be heard! We need bright young people to insist upon what’s best for ALL students.

  10. Amye Bensenhaver on April 20th, 2019 3:01 AM

    As a former assistant attorney general who worked on open records and open meetings appeals for 25 years, I was alarmed by the news that an invitation only meeting was conducted to discuss public business of this importance. The open meetings law prohibits closed meetings of a quorum of the members of a public agency where public business is discussed or action is taken.
    I later learned that, either by accident or be design, a quorum of the Kentucky Bd of Education did not attend the meeting. I was satisfied that the meeting was not prohibited by state law and reassured when one reporter who attended advised me that she was unaware of anyone who was denied entry to the meeting.
    When I read your article, I was enraged. The meeting may not fall within the parameters of the open meetings law, but to deny students’ their choice to attend a meeting about student choice struck me as the ultimate irony.
    I spoke with Ms. Turner to express my appreciation to her and asked her to share my admiration for you and your persistence.
    I hope that Ms. Turner and you will consider my offer to come to your school to discuss Kentucky’s Open Government laws (both open records and open meetings) with the Lamplighter staff. Although they didn’t help in this case, they are useful laws in exposing agency officials to the light of public scrutiny.

  11. Michael Mau on April 20th, 2019 10:42 AM

    Thank you for what you do. I appreciate your journalistic integrity.

  12. Cathy Tyrrell on April 22nd, 2019 7:43 AM

    This is an excellent article! Thank you. Your teachers, advisers, parents and public school district have done a great job. I am alarmed at the agenda of this administration that seems to vilify public education. Please, keep going!

  13. Phil Poley on April 22nd, 2019 8:14 AM

    PLD Staff,
    Keep up the good work! When I was editor of my high school paper we investigated the presence of asbestos in our school. Administrators tried to block the story and pressured us to reveal our sources. We stood firm and exposed a major health and safety issue that affected the entire student body. As a result, the school system cleaned up the asbestos (which, among other things, was sprayed on the walls in the music wing, exposing everyone there to carcinogenic fibers). Keep covering the story and keep seeking that face to face opportunity. Great work!
    Phil Poley,
    Charlotte, NC

  14. Angie Jones on April 22nd, 2019 8:41 AM

    Kudos to these awesome high school students. Education, climate change, gun violence, student debt, economic stagnation. These are all issues that will prominently affect the younger generations and the current administration is refusing to address them in ways these future constituents are asking. Quality journalism that speaks truth to power is necessary for a democracy to survive. Keep speaking kids and when you are old enough, VOTE!

  15. Oliver on April 22nd, 2019 9:23 AM

    I really appreciate the work you put into this article and your voices, which are important and meaningful. This article had a positive affect on me, thank you.

    I’m wondering: maybe next time can you park the car somewhere else, and try entering the building on foot? I imagine this is something you might learn over time, but maybe being turned away doesn’t happen until someone very nearly forcibly pushes you away.

    Good luck,

  16. Tom Payne on April 22nd, 2019 9:31 AM

    This is journalism.
    And wow, is it missing on the national journalistic stage.
    Which is why this made national news.
    You ask common sense questions, and question the insane libertarian project to destroy our civic institutions under the banner of “Freeeeeedumbbbb”…
    Common Sense questions based on Kindness for ALL (ncluding the earth) are the basis of journalism.
    The University of New Hampshire has a great journalism program… let me know if you want to join us…
    All Best, Tom

  17. Raphael E. Serebreny on April 22nd, 2019 9:32 AM

    But above all, remember this. You are voters (some of you, I imagine, int the 2020 elections)! To use an old expression….”We will remember in November!”

    The excuses by the DeVoss staff are jus that. Excuses. It is a part of a much bigger picture. The public can not know if the press is not allowed to attend.

  18. Shepherd Higginbotham on April 22nd, 2019 9:35 AM

    Keep up the excellent work!

  19. Su Hall on April 22nd, 2019 9:54 AM

    To the students who tried to attend and then reported this, DON’T EVER STOP! Not only is this a well-written piece, it smacks of the revelation that government officials are ignoring and neglecting the very ones they were hired to support! Good for all of you!! You have demonstrated how valuable your voices are! Keep going! You all have excellent futures if you stay with revealing the TRUTHS of this world!

    Peace and Love,

    Su Hall

  20. martin garthwaite on April 22nd, 2019 10:01 AM

    Never has a less qualified secretary of state been given a job of such importance. It staggers me that this woman hides behind a closed door at what is an open meeting. Well done for such dogged reporting and bringing this story to the world.

  21. Rebecca Schwindt on April 22nd, 2019 10:25 AM

    Commendations to the entire Lamplighter family for promoting solid journalism done with integrity and research. Please continue your path; you are the voice and hope of the future!

  22. Tom Persoon on April 22nd, 2019 10:32 AM

    I’m a former high school newspaper editor and now a retired engineer. I congratulate you on your story, your persistence, and your fortitude in posting this to your website. I saw a link to the story in my daily news feed and I hope more of the big-time media pick up your story. There are plenty more angles to this story that could serve as subjects for future stories. Great job and keep it up!
    Tom in Iowa

  23. Alice Engelmore on April 22nd, 2019 10:52 AM

    Please stay on this story. What you are doing is at the heart of journalistic responsibility. Why were you prevented from attending and is this standard practice for Secretary DeVos?
    Thank you for your work!

  24. Stephen Butler on April 22nd, 2019 11:01 AM

    I just read about this article on the Washington Post and decided to take a look. I’ve been reading WaPo since about 1980, and to put it mildly, my standard for good journalism is high. I’m a bit of a News Snob. 🙂

    Outstanding job. This is an excellent read. Thank you.

    I bet you got DeVos’ attention now. You were excluded from this round-table, but the odds are good that you have ensured access to future events for others. Journalism that results in positive change. I feel that meets the highest standard of excellence.

  25. Tina Peterson on April 22nd, 2019 11:08 AM

    Thank you for your editorial regarding your attempt to attend the DeVos event. I am very impressed by your informative and professional story. Kudos to your teachers as well. You should be very proud that the Washington Post covered your important story. It is because of that coverage that I in Lacey, Washington heard about the DeVos event and your story. Keep up your important work!

  26. Richard J Vonder Meulen on April 22nd, 2019 11:08 AM

    What great reporting from aspiring journalists when an important federal agency flubbed it! I’m encouraged for this great country when I see our young people getting involved with this mighty ship of state for the good of all!
    Great Reporting!
    RJV, Indy

  27. Shelley Rigger on April 22nd, 2019 11:11 AM

    Congratulations on your great work. Without your work, no one would ever have known about this event. Thanks to you, it is a national story.

  28. Charles McGinn III on April 22nd, 2019 11:12 AM

    I would like to forward an opinion that I posted on Facebook today after reading the enclosed article in the Washington Post regarding the denial of your “Place At The Table.”

    While this gaffe may have been just that, a mistaken exclusion of an essential segment of the media for this discussion, we must wonder, given this administration‘s vitriolic antipathy towards journalists.
    As the involved students point out in their effort to salvage a positive learning experience from another of Secretary DeVos’s uneducated attempts to form education policy, “We learned that the job of a journalist is to chase the story, by any means necessary.“
    Perhaps – as seems to be the case – Secretary DeVos, in an unintended exemplification of the bumbling efforts of the Trump administration to “Make America Great Again,” has provided a valuable lesson to the young staff of the PLD Lamplighter. She has unwittingly encouraged a new generation of journalists to pursue critical, but fair, oversight of our political practices and institutions in the responsible manner that is essential to evolving democracy, yet anathema to “this President.”
    Kudos to the staff of the PLD Lamplighter! Well done in every respect: keeping an ear to the ground for news; taking advantage of available opportunities (even though, it turns out, they weren’t); responding to disappointment in a constructive manner; and producing an opinion piece, worthy of more seasoned journalists, that properly demonstrates your creative abilities! I commend you!

  29. Sherry Wacker on April 22nd, 2019 11:17 AM

    Right now I am very worried about our country. Students such as yourselves give me hope for a brighter future. I can’t wait unti you can vote. Keep up the good work!

  30. Susan Gilchrist on April 22nd, 2019 11:19 AM

    Excellent article and followup information! You have done a great service to not only your own state but to the country by shining a light on the inappropriate actions of our current Secretary of Education and her fellow supporters of “school choice”. If they have their way, there will be no choice but to be educated at corporate sponsored schools. You article highlights why we need to support public schools.

  31. Polly Wilkinson on April 22nd, 2019 11:29 AM

    Thank you for your work. You are using your journalistic and US Constitutional responsibilities to demonstrate the blatant hypocrisy and illegalities of DeVos and the Trump administration, supported in your resident state by your governor and of course your obstructionist senator McConnell. I and many other concerned citizens in favor of democracy in the US am reposting your article to my media and social contacts. Thank you fellow journalists.

  32. John grenier on April 22nd, 2019 11:42 AM

    This is BETTER than if you had attended. Ms. DeVos is not well read, and avoids answering tough questions. Bottom line, she is from a wealthy family making in millions of contributions to Trump’s campaign to protect the family’s investment in student loans. Which cannot be dismissed in bankruptcy. These closed door events are for show. Only,

  33. Megan on April 22nd, 2019 11:54 AM

    Great job! Keep speaking up and shining a light on stories like these. Please vote in 2020 if you are of voting age.

  34. Dr. Carl McFarland on April 22nd, 2019 12:06 PM

    Reading your inspired and eloquent piece of first-rate journalism absolutely made my day. A bit of faith in our country has been restored by you! You also reminded me that I should have pursued my journalism major rather than Psychology!

    Carl E. McFarland, Jr., Ph.D.
    Professor and Chair Emeritus
    Department of Psychology
    University of Alabama at Birmingham
    Adjunct Professor
    University of Arizona

  35. Isabel Steilberg on April 22nd, 2019 12:07 PM

    Now retired from teaching rhetoric and composition, I am encouraged (elated may be a better descriptive!) by the skills of the writers. As an Episcopal priest, I thank God every day for the courageous voices of young citizens.

  36. Linda Wilson on April 22nd, 2019 12:21 PM

    This was a very excellent article!! You all have bright futures ahead! Now why don’t you use lots of energy to vote this governor out!! Help us get a governor that values public school students!!

  37. Daniel Young on April 22nd, 2019 1:12 PM

    I hold a lifetime teaching credential for community colleges in California, and I want to tell you I am very encouraged by your journalistic endeavors. Please continue this important work with the understanding that you have the support of millions of Americans who believe our public servants must be accountable to all citizens. Sec. DeVos does not deserve to have any say in the public school system, since she just advocates for charter schools.

  38. Tim Fallon on April 22nd, 2019 1:56 PM

    Congratulations on a great story – and the painful learning that accompanied it.
    Keep going after the story, keep learning, keep writing, keep publishing!
    You are the future heroes of the free press!
    Tim Fallon

  39. Doug Motel on April 22nd, 2019 2:00 PM

    Wait. Are you TEACHERS or students? I say TEACHERS because I just learned a lot about graciousness, activism, and journalism from reading this. Thanks!

  40. Ken Geiger on April 22nd, 2019 2:34 PM

    Sad to say, Secretary DeVos and her backers have long been seeking to demolish one of our cherished protections: the separation of church and state which allows all people religious freedom. They want our tax dollars siphoned off to enrich their Christian churches through so-called Christian schools. They try to represent public schools as anti-religious indoctrination for teaching science and history. If they wish, let them teach their kids at home or pay for private school themselves. Seems these people ought to go back to school themselves to learn about history, civics, and the creation of our country.

  41. Mary Beth McAteer on April 22nd, 2019 3:44 PM

    As a former High School newspaper editor and current director of a local cable access television station please know how much your work is respected and needed. Students’ voices are necessary to the success of the democratic process. I served our on local school board and city council for over 20 years and the value of young people’s perspective is essential, especially when it comes to their own education. Please continue your work in this area and consider delving into the topic of education funding in KY from a student perspective.- and perhaps take up the offer of assistance from the former KY Asst AG to learn more about open meeting laws and your 1st amendment rights as journalists. Too many states are funneling off public dollars for private education thus discriminating against many students who don’t fit the mold. In MA where I live we overwhelmingly rejected a ballot question last year to expand charter schools. Now a new grassroots effort called FUND OUR FUTURE is gaining traction with educators, parents and student support. Don’t be afraid of taking a risk- searching out the facts,presenting the truths can effect change. In our newsroom back at MHS we had a poster with a picture of a turtle and caption that said “You only make progress when you stick out your neck” Go for it and perhaps you’ll receive one of the coveted student journalism awards as we did! Good Luck and stay strong!

  42. Mark C Mahoney on April 22nd, 2019 4:33 PM

    Congratulations and bravos to you for your well-researched, balanced and passionate editorial on the unwarranted restrictions imposed on your attempts to cover the event and on the greater challenges facing the student press. You’re doing a great service not only to your fellow students, but to your school, your community and to your colleagues in the journalism profession.
    Keep up the good work.
    Mark Mahoney
    Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing, 2009

  43. Jennifer Tyler on April 22nd, 2019 4:40 PM

    So proud to see a group of student journalists representing themselves and their school in a mature professional fashion about an issue that is so very important.

    Alas the current Secretary of Education seems not interested in education for all but education for profit – her own profit I believe, in part – and education only for the rich. I don’t recall one single positive thing she has done for public education specifically since she took office. .

    If all of this generation, in spite of efforts of people like DeVos, are as savvy, courageous and thorough, there is great hope for the future. And let’s not forget the teachers who are teaching and encouraging students to be involved citizens of their world. I remember I had such teachers in the 1970’s.

    Great job, PLD Lamplighter’s Editorial Board! Keep it up.

  44. Paul on April 22nd, 2019 5:25 PM

    Now THIS is real Journalism! Professional, well-researched and written extremely well. Quite compelling, actually. This should be required reading for the vast majority of mainstream media reporters, anchors, moderators, producers, editors, etc. They should all be ashamed and embarrassed of how they cover stories and issues of this importance. Your perseverance in refusing to be silenced and ignored is very much like other young people who speak truth to power on climate change and gun violence. All of you are the voices that our democracy desperately needs. Please don’t lose that passion, persistence and dogged determination as you move forward in your lives.

  45. Perry Brassington on April 22nd, 2019 5:26 PM

    Congratulations to you for making the great effort and finding out for yourselves what it takes to be a journalist. It is not all easy work behind a screen but hard work, dedication and perseverance in spite of the obstacles placed in front of you to get to the truth face to face. Freedom of the press is enshrined in our constitution and I hope you have gained just the slightest bit of appreciation for what that means after your experience with your Governor and Secretary of “Education”.

  46. Charles Bueker on April 22nd, 2019 5:34 PM

    “Our citizens may be deceived for awhile, and have been deceived; but as long as the presses can be protected, we may trust to them for light.” –Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart. 1799

  47. Marie Finn on April 22nd, 2019 5:40 PM

    Thank you for responding so well in the face of adversity. This is true journalism: telling the honest story about adapting to such an unexpected change of plans, helping to keep the lights on what really is going on in our world and how that impacts the future. Keep up the great work! From a concerned citizen in Cincinnati Ohio.

  48. Phillip Phillips on April 22nd, 2019 7:50 PM

    Once you get these facts straight, it is easy to understand Betsy DeVos:
    -she is intellectually incapable of handling her position as Secretary of Education
    -she is morally bankrupt

    Thanks for your excellent take on the matter.

    Betsy DeVos is a perfect example of what happerns when the dumb, disorderly and dangerous hold the reigns of power.

  49. Kim Trotter on April 22nd, 2019 10:32 PM

    Just wanted to take a moment to let you all know how exciting it is to witness such an intelligent and dedicated group of youth. It makes me very hopeful for the future of our country! Please continue to do what’s right, be kind, and follow your dreams!!!

    Kim Trotter
    4th grade Math teacher
    Clarksville, Tennessee

  50. Dallin Bulkley on April 23rd, 2019 3:09 AM

    Gripping. It is always reporting that lets them know we ALL are wanting clear answers. Keep hunting. Thank you.

  51. Sarah on April 23rd, 2019 1:40 PM

    I was a journalism major in the early 1990’s. I graduated with an Associates Degree from Morrisville State College in New York. Your op-ed shows the continuing attempts of our leaders to quiet the press. Students have every right to seek out news. If my late journalism professor were here, he would be saying, “Get back over there and tell them you have every right to be in there, invitation or no invitation!” Keep fighting for the “public’s right to know.” We have been attacked endlessly, accused of reporting fake news, and demeaned as the enemy. It’s when we push back that we show our professionalism. Keep up the great work!

  52. Joseph Nichols on April 23rd, 2019 1:48 PM

    Lamplighter Staff,

    I do not hold the qualifications nor the names so many of your responders, here, do. What I am, however, is an idealistic writer in Fayette County who has been encouraged tremendously by the heart and fortitude that you have shown in this experience and the subsequent editorial. I am more than twice your age but you display a mettle, not only in your heart, or your stance, but also the temperance through which you approach those attributes in your writing. The result, then, is no less impassioned and seeking the truth, but also wise, controlled, and powerful by way of evidence, sound writing, and distance.

    Students such as yourselves are why, at nearly 40, I am still trying to redirect my work into the Public School Systen. You lit me on fire today, as an educator, a writer, and an American. Thank you for being bold.

    Joseph Allen Nichols
    Former EIC of JellyBucket
    and Grad Asst with the BGWS at EKU

  53. Janine Comrack on April 23rd, 2019 2:03 PM

    I applaud your tenacity and am so gratified to see you, America’s future, not backing down and going after the truth of what happened when you were denied entrance to the roundtable discussion. As a retired teacher, it does my heart good to see that you all have not given up and you continue to go after something and see it to its conclusion. BRAVO!

  54. Logan Hoopes on April 23rd, 2019 3:17 PM

    I am proud of the work that your team did on this article. The amount of extra work and thoroughness you put into this article really shows. Keep this level of passion and work ethic and you will go as far as you want in life.

  55. dave etienne on April 23rd, 2019 4:14 PM

    Great work and keep digging. As journalists, you should be looking carefully at some of the names on the list of who was in attendance, particularly the “stakeholders” such as Bluegrass Institute and Americans for Prosperity. If Mr. Bevin is to be believed and these people don’t care about politics, then such overtly political organizations may not be the best representatives to sit at this particular table. In all things, follow the money!

  56. Rick Pavek on April 23rd, 2019 7:16 PM

    I commend your effort but am far from surprised that you were kept out. Secretary DeVos has no interest in your message, unless it coincides with hers, that bring that all schools in our country should be privatized and converted into “for profit” institutions (works great for prisons, right?).

    Read this insane story out of Alabama ( It includes intrigue, double-dealing, lies, and possible Islamic terrorists.

  57. Richard Holmes on April 24th, 2019 9:51 AM

    As each day brings new dismay at the dismantling of the rule of law and American legal institutions (like DHHS) and cultural institutions (like welcoming immigrants and being kind to the downtrodden), this action allows for hope for a brighter future when a new generation of leaders shows the courage and moral fiber to rebel against bigotry and leader-induced chaos.

  58. Christopher Davis on April 24th, 2019 1:14 PM

    Congratulations to your staff for your perseverance in determining why this “public” event was less open to the public than one would hope from our elected and appointed officials. However, given Ms. DeVos’ experience with a media that asks her tough questions, it’s sadly not a surprising incident. (See for an example of Ms. DeVos hoping the elevator will arrive sooner than later so that she can avoid answering some questions from a CNN reporter.) I don’t have to tell you to keep asking the tough questions and to not give up; this editorial shows a tenacity in you all that is an inspiration to others.

  59. Randy Grein on April 24th, 2019 1:33 PM

    Congratulations on a job well done! The investigative work in finding why you were excluded, as well as the measured reporting on results are beyond what most expect from high school journalists. Keep up the good work, you are shining example of the success of public schools!

  60. Meg on April 26th, 2019 3:57 PM

    Thank you students!

  61. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, Chairman, Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education, House Committee on Education and Labor on April 26th, 2019 8:17 PM

    Thank you for your perseverance and fairness in your reporting despite that you were not allowed to be a part of this forum. I do not doubt for a minute that this event was intended to be friendly to Secretary DeVos. DeVos has appeared before the House Education and Labor Committee on two occasions and has been great in evading responding to questions from myself and other members. She is, in my personal opinion, a disappointment to public education in our country.

  62. Michelle K Yezbick on April 30th, 2019 8:51 AM

    Ms. DeVos doesn’t have the capacity to answer questions she hasn’t been given answers to ahead of time, so of course it was invite only. You were sure to ask her questions she could only blink in response to.

  63. L. E. Lyle on May 8th, 2019 9:37 PM

    Readers of Dr. Ravitch’s blog learned that she added the Lamplighter student journalists to her wall of honor. The Ravitch blog is the nation’s foremost education blog with 33,000,000 views. Also in recognition of the student journalists’ commitment to both public education and a free and independent press, Dr. Ravitch announced that the Lamplighter staff have been asked to cover the, “Moving Public Education Forward”, event in Columbus, Ohio, on May 16.
    Democracy rising in Kentucky and Ohio.

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