Kentucky’s teacher of the year, Jessica Duenas, and Minnesota’s recipient of the title, Kelly Holstine, are both turning down an invite to the White House where President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence planned to honor them.
Duenas, who is a special education teacher, said she couldn’t attend the ceremony on principle due to the Trump administration’s policies towards immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and education.
“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.”
Today I followed through w the choice to not set foot on WH grounds/meet w current admin while in DC. Representing my fam, students I have and did serve, and KY whose Ss and ed system are constantly under attack, I couldn’t in good faith. ❤️ to all who went, hope all enjoyed.
— Jessica Dueñas Ed.S. (@JDuenas24) April 29, 2019
“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,” she continued. “I’ve heard people state, ‘This was your chance to tell members of his administration how you feel and you missed it.'”
Holstine had similar complaints about the Trump White House and spoke out for her LGBTQ and Muslim students.
“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 said.
“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,” she added. “I cannot implicitly support people who hate my kids and who talk about them in the ways they talk about them.”
The pair also skipped an event where Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recognized National Teacher of the Year, Rodney Robinson of Virginia.
Featured image: screen grab/Jefferson County Public Schools