School bulletin board with political message questioned by upset parent

Posted at 8:02 PM, Oct 05, 2012
and last updated 2012-10-05 20:02:53-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) - A Chesterfield grandfather is raising questions about a bulletin board posted at Carver Middle School that he says sends a one –sided message.

Charles Hodge says his granddaughter came home upset about the message on the board. He says he went to check it out himself and snapped a picture of it.

The message at the time read “Don’t be a donkey, vote for Romney”. Hodge says he contacted the school system to express his concern. Later, he called CBS 6 News.

"Why would you put that sign up there unless you put up both? That, to me is campaigning “Hodge said.

He says a school representative told him it was part of a civics project that just hadn’t been completed the moment he saw it.

When CBS 6 News contacted the school district, spokesperson Shawn Smith declined to go on camera, but confirmed what Hodge saw was an in the works civics project by students.

Smith says the students are learning about politics and campaigns, a requirement of their SOLs.

Only a portion of the bulletin board was done. Friday afternoon Smith sent us an updated picture of the bulletin board with slogans for President Obama and his opponent Mitt Romney.

"If that's the case then you should wait until both groups finish and then put up the board so everyone can see it” Hodge said.

We spoke with citizens in the county and some say they can see how in this tense political climate the project not seen in its entirety could raise questions.

Others say there’s just no way to please all of the people all of the time. “I feel like if you’re going to have one side up, then you should have both sides represented and then you let the kids formulate their own opinions based on the information given” one concerned citizen told CBS 6.

Another woman told us that she can understand what the grandfather is upset about. She says the whole project should have been done first before it was posted. She went on to add that it’s also teaching the students that we have a right to free speech.

Tim Walters said “Well, you'll never get everybody from being offended when it comes to an election. Somebody's going to get offended somehow, shape or form, especially when it comes to kids. That’s just a touchy subject with parents. Some don’t want their kids subjected to a candidate they don’t agree with, so I can see that happening.”

Hodge says now that the bulletin board is complete, he and his granddaughter are happy.

Smith points out that it’s illegal for campaign signs to be posted in the schools.

It’s also against policy for politicians to hold campaign events in the school. The bulletin board is a civics project tied to the SOLs, therefore an exception.