Virginia’s Chesterfield County School District on Friday denied a request by First Lady Michelle Obama to visit one of their elementary schools. The first lady wanted to speak during a campaign stop on Tuesday, but the district denied her request, citing school policy.
Chesterfield school officials refused to discuss the Obama campaign request or even acknowledge that a request had been made. Schools spokesman Shawn Smith did not respond to two email inquiries Tuesday and Wednesday until after the Richmond Times-Dispatch contacted School Board Chairwoman Patricia M. Carpenter.
“We respectfully decline to comment,” Smith said in an email Wednesday.
[Dale District Supervisor Jim] Holland, the only Democrat on the five-member Chesterfield board, was unaware of the Obama campaign request until contacted by a Times-Dispatch reporter. He then confirmed it after contacting the county administration.
“I don’t know the extent of what their request was, whether it was a political request or whether it was an educational request,” Holland said. “If it was official, that would be appropriate.”
On Wednesday evening, the school division’s community relations director, Tim Bullis, sent an email that addressed the School Board’s policy in response to the newspaper’s inquiry.
“If a political campaign were to inquire about the use of a school facility during the school day, the campaign would be referred to a School Board Policy 6100, which prohibits the use of school facilities during the school day for political purposes,” Bullis wrote.
The Obama campaign said in a statement: “Any time the campaign looks at venues for events, we consider a range of options. The school was only one of several options being considered in the greater Richmond area, and CenterStage theater was ultimately determined to be the best fit for this event.”
Chesterfield’s action follows a similar denial several weeks ago from the University of Virginia, which declined a request from President Barack Obama’s campaign to hold an event at one of two outdoor venues on the Charlottesville campus.
In denying the request, university officials said holding the event at either site would cause the cancellation or disruption of classes on the second day of the semester and would require closing adjacent buildings for the entire day.
Political candidates and their surrogates have been allowed to speak and/or campaign at public schools in both Chesterfield and Henrico counties in the past. But school officials said those events occurred when school was not in session or were part of an educational forum.
Hm…This is a bit…interesting, to say the least. While I understand the district may have its so-called policies, I can’t imagine why any educational institution to showcase its achievements off to the first lady.