The superintendent of the Maine School Administrative District 35 is scrambling to calm parents who were outraged that their high school students were offered community service credit for volunteering 50 hours of service in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Dr. Mary Nash posted a lengthy letter Friday on the school district’s website, explaining that, back on November 23, a Marshwood High School secretary posted an opportunity to be a volunteer in the Clinton campaign as part of students’ requirement to fulfill 50 hours of community service.
“Although this posting was intended to be a helpful information source regarding a community service opportunity,” Nash wrote, “because the posting was made without any context it could have been perceived by some of our parents as a solicitation or a recruitment for a non-school sponsored organization and this is most unfortunate because it was not!”
Nash, who oversees schools in Eliot and South Berwick, Maine, continued that she was unaware of the posting until December 1 when two parents brought it to her attention, adding:
I immediately convened an investigation where I first reviewed the Board’s policies regarding the acceptable (and prohibited) uses of the district’s computers and internet/email services and found that the Board’s policy titled Employee Computer and Internet Use Rules are very clear and they strictly prohibit: “Any use as a forum for communicating by email or any other medium with other school users or outside parties to solicit, proselytize, advocate or communicate the views of an individual or non-school-sponsored organization; to solicit membership in or support of any non-school-sponsored organization; or to raise funds for any non-school sponsored purpose whether profit or not-for-profit.” [sic]
Following national coverage of the incident by Fox News, Nash said she wanted to stress several points, including that “the posting of a volunteer position in Hillary Clinton’s campaign office as a community service opportunity was not an endorsement of any political party or candidate.”
Additionally, she asserted, “The sharing of the information about a volunteer position in Hillary Clinton’s campaign office last November was intended to communicate an opportunity for community service and did not encourage, persuade or recruit any student for this opportunity.”
Nash continued that the posting of the Clinton campaign community service opportunity was “a mistake on the part of a secretary… in that she did not provide our students’ parents with additional information regarding this community service opportunity… so that they could make an informed decision…”
She added that other candidates and political parties have offered volunteer opportunities for students that were posted, but additional information was given in these cases.
In a letter dated December 2, Marshwood High School principal Paul Mehlhorn also said it was not the offer of the volunteer service with the Clinton campaign that was the problem in the current situation, but the fact that “more information could have been presented in this particular notification to clarify that the school was simply passing on information of an opportunity…”
He added that the school regularly passes on service opportunities that may “involve and support religious, military, political, and social service organizations.”
“The school only passes on community service opportunities that would satisfy our graduation requirements,” the principal said. “However, the school by passing on such information, should never be perceived as recruiting, soliciting, or advocating the views of any non-school sponsored organization.”