U.S.

Teacher of the Year Who Boycotted White House Visit to Protest Trump Says 'I Cannot Implicitly Support People Who Hate My Kids'

Two award-winning teachers boycotted a ceremony at the White House held in their honor in protest of President Donald Trump’s policies.

Jessica Duenas, Kentucky’s 2019 teacher of the year, and Minnesota’s winner Kelly Holstine, both declined an invitation to attend a ceremony held at the Oval Office where Trump and Vice President Mike Pence met the winners from each state.

The pair also did not attend the main ceremony where Education Secretary Betsy DeVos presented the National Teacher of the Year award to Virginia's Rodney Robinson.

Duenas, who works as a special education teacher at Oldham County Middle School, described how she could not attend the ceremony in good faith because of Trump’s immigration and LGBT policies and remarks on the Latino community

“I, as a first-generation American, child of a formerly undocumented immigrant, woman of color who identifies as Afro-Latina, ally of the LGTBQ community, and advocate of public education, declined my invite to the White House because belief systems/policies that our current administration support are either attacks on public education students or people like me,” she told WLKY. “Currently, students who should be in classrooms and with their families are still at the borders.”

Duenas also expressed opposition to DeVos’ support of education policies such as charter schools and private school vouchers.

“Privatization is also a threat to the state, and when Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos came to Kentucky, not a single Kentucky public school education representative was at the table; even students were turned away. I've heard people state, 'This was your chance to tell members of his administration how you feel and you missed it.'"

Duenas said the photo call at the Oval Office with Trump did not seem like a scenario where it would have been possible to discuss her concerns about the administration's policies.

Holstine, an English teacher at Tokata Learning Center, an alternative high school in Shakopee, also said she boycotted the event in support of the immigrant, LGBT and Muslim children she teaches.

"My frustrations with the current administration are the messages and actions and policies and words that are shared about the population of students that I work with,” Holstine told a press conference (via The Washngton Post).

“It impacts and it hurts them, and it hurts them both in their hearts and in the world because they then have to deal with the fallout of all of that discrimination. I cannot implicitly support people who hate my kids and who talk about them in the ways they talk about them," said Holstine.

teachers year Minnesota’s Kelly Holstine (L) and Kentucky's Jessica Duenas boycotted the ceremony and Oval Office meeting with President Donald Trump over his policies. CCSSO

Another person who did not attend the award ceremony was Trump himself. His decision not to hand over the National Teacher of the Year award to Robinson follows a protest from last year’s winner, Mandy Manning.

Manning, who teaches English to immigrants and refugees at Joel E. Ferris High School in Spokane, Washington, wore a number of political badges while accepting the award from Trump in May 2018.

They included one reading “Trans Equality Now," and one promoting the Women’s March which took place following Trump’s inauguration.

After the ceremony, Manning said she had handed letters to Trump from the pupils she teaches in the hope that he would read them and visit the school.

"I just had a very, very brief moment so I made it clear that the students that I teach…are dedicated and focused," Manning told Associated Press. "They make the United States the beautiful place that it is."

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