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Keep Schools, Politics Separate

Making it appear that a public school system supports a political candidate or cause is not acceptable for various reasons. Apparently, Ohio County Schools officials need to hold an in-service session to get that through to some employees.

School employees are free on their own time to become involved in politics. But using school equipment, property or school-sponsored organizations for partisan politics is wrong and not acceptable.

Among reasons for that is that public schools are supported by virtually all taxpayers. They have a right to be upset if the system supports people or causes with which they disagree.

In addition, public schools should not indoctrinate students. The appearance that their school system is taking sides does just that.

Finally, the perception, even if not correct, that a school district backs a specific candidate can have unpleasant ramifications if that person’s opponent wins an election.

Yet twice during the span of slightly more than two years, Ohio County Schools officials have found themselves having to explain links to partisan politics. It happened in July 2018, when some members of the Wheeling Park High School football team — in uniform — helped park cars at an event for supporters of a candidate. Four of them even posed with one of his signs.

At that time, Ohio County Schools Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones termed the situation “a mistake.”

“We do not and will not consciously get involved in politics,” Jones said.

Yet a few days ago, an online announcement that the Ohio County Coaches Association had endorsed a candidate featured a picture of some of the coaches in the WPHS gymnasium. After complaints were made about use of school property, another picture, with the coaches posed at the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, was substituted.

This time around, Jones noted that the school system does not have a policy regarding political endorsements. He added that school employees and their organizations are free to engage in politics.

Such a policy, banning use of school uniforms, equipment, facilities or anything else that implies official Ohio County Schools involvement in politics may be needed. Two mistakes in slightly more than two years seems to indicate corrective action is required.

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