Oct 8, 2012Print This Post
Florida Republicans are outraged after a school district allowed a pro-Obama organization to conduct student voter registration drives and deliver speeches to classes – but denied the Romney campaign similar opportunities.
Pasco County Schools confirmed to Fox News that volunteers from Organizing For America were given access to as many as a half dozen high school and middle school campuses.
“They did register students to vote,” spokesman John Mann told Fox News. “We don’t know how many children were registered – (but) we have an ongoing investigation.”
According to email correspondence obtained by Fox News, volunteers tried to infiltrate at least three other school campuses – but on-campus officials rebuffed those efforts.
In addition to voter registration, a former teacher was allowed to deliver Obama speeches to a number of senior high school students.
“She got into six classrooms and gave pro-Obama speeches – like way off to the left,” said James Mathieu, general counsel for the Pasco County Republican Party. “That got out to parents and parents complained.”
Matthieu told Fox News he has filed a complained with the Florida Division of Elections and also contacted the Florida Attorney General’s office.
“We have a liberal culture in our school system and we know that,” he told Fox News. “The problem is someone has used false credentials, false pretenses and there is a security issue.”
Mathieu said that some of the Organizing for America volunteers identified themselves to school officials as being with the local elections office.
“These people have used false pretense to get into the high schools and all they’re giving us is whitewash and lip service,” he said.
But Mann told Fox News that to his knowledge none of the volunteers misrepresented themselves.
“They identified themselves as being with Organizing For America,” he said.
However, according to an email obtained by Fox News – school officials acknowledged there may have been some deceit.
“In at least one case, those individuals said they were from the Pasco Supervisor of Elections Office,” wrote staff member Paula Lesko. “Unfortunately the SOE said that is not the case.”
So why did school officials allow a partisan organization to mingle with students?
“That will come out in our final investigation,” Mann said.
Another significant issue was the former teacher’s pro-Obama address. Local Republicans asked for equal access. At first, school officials agreed – but later reversed their decision.
“There was definitely discussion of having a Republican come in for equal access,” Mann told Fox News. “We’re not going in that direction because that would indeed be an additional violation of board policy.
Organizing For America apologized to the school district, the Tampa Bay Times reported. And the volunteer who delivered the pro-Obama speeches has been dismissed.
A similar incident occurred in Pinellas County when a high school principal invited students to volunteer for the Obama campaign.
Reuben Hepburn, the principal at Dunedin High School, made an announcement over the public address system about volunteer opportunities with the Obama campaign and Organizing for America, The Tampa Bay Times reported.
A school spokesperson said the incident came to light after a parent complained.
“The mistake there was that (Hepburn) promoted one specific organization that supports one specific candidate,” spokesperson Melanie Marquez told the newspaper. “It’s okay to say, ‘Hey, you can volunteer for political campaigns.’ But it’s not a good idea to focus on one organization.”