BALTIMORE (AP)– Students graduating from the University of Baltimore protested the appearance of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at their commencement.

As the event got underway Monday, there was a smattering of light boos when DeVos was announced as a speaker. As she took the stage, there was a mix of booing and applause.

Then, about 10 minutes into her remarks, nearly 50 people stood up and silently faced the back of the theater. The group was mostly African-American, and included some of the approximately 375 graduating students and a handful of their relatives. One of the students silently raised a fist as he turned his back on DeVos.

About 50 protesters gathered across the street from the theater, as well.

The demonstrators include University of Baltimore faculty, LGBT activists, and students. Some carried signs with slogans such as “democracy needs public schools.”

DeVos has spent decades promoting the use of vouchers and other methods to redirect public money into private schools.

Kerrin Smith is a 26-year-old graduate student at the University of Baltimore. She says she was “shocked and disappointed” by the choice of DeVos as commencement speaker, citing what she describes as the Trump administration’s “strangling of public education.”

Debbie Kohl is an associate professor in the University of Baltimore’s college of arts and sciences. She was among about a dozen faculty members wearing academic robes while protesting DeVos outside the theater. She says many of her fellow professors believe DeVos “represents policies and standpoints that are antithetical to the job we do here for our students.”

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