UPDATED: Chesterfield schools pass on visit from First Lady

Posted at 6:43 PM, Sep 13, 2012
and last updated 2012-09-14 00:22:31-04

CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WTVR)--Officials from Chesterfield County schools told representatives from President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign no when they were asked to host First Lady Michelle Obama during her visit to Central Virginia.

Prior to Mrs. Obama’s Thursday speech at Centerstage, Chesterfield County Schools denied a request by the Obama campaign to have Mrs. Obama speak at one of their elementary schools.

Chesterfield school officials say school board policy 6100 kept the visit from happening.  The policy doesn't allow school facilities to be used for political purposes during school hours.

“Yeah, school is school.  Let's not get the politics mixed in with it too much,” says John Thayer, who lives in Chesterfield.

“It's exploitation, and there's no other way to describe it,” says Mary Jennings, whose kids graduated from Chesterfield Schools.  “I think they [political figures] need to concentrate on the adults, not the kids.”

Political figures have come to Chesterfield County Schools during campaign season before.  In 2008, both Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican George Allen spoke to a government class at Cosby High School about then presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.

In an email to CBS 6, Chesterfield school officials say those appearances were allowed because they were quote "not political campaign rallies."

Omar Rajah served on the Chesterfield County School Board from 2007-2011 representing the Matoaca District.

“It's just bad business to not allow an elected official to come into a school,” says Rajah.

Parents from Spring Run Elementary in Chesterfield told Rajah a group from their school was picked to go to Washington D.C. and visit Michelle Obama's organic garden at the White House.

Rajah thinks the first lady's motive for wanting to visit Chesterfield wasn't all political.

“I think it's just total disrespect to the First Lady, and that's a historical piece that some kid could have been inspired and maybe one day they want to run for President.  And we didn't allow that chance,” says Rajah.

How might the other major school districts in Central Virginia handle a similar request?

Henrico County public schools says employees may not use school time or school property for partisan political purposes.

Richmond public schools tells CBS 6 it has no specific policy, but tends to shy away from being a part of any political campaign, especially when it comes to those running for office addressing students.