Henry County Schools Superintendent Dr. Amy Blake-Lewis on Monday emailed a copy of the county division’s policy regarding political activity to all candidates in the November election after learning that a candidate had set up a tent in a school parking lot during a game last week.
Del Mills, who is seeking the Henry County Sheriff’s post in November against Sheriff Wayne Davis, said he was tailgating at the Bassett High School football game with his family, brother, and a few friends.
Teddy Martin, chairman of the Henry County School Board, on Saturday said he learned about the activity via a telephone call and later saw Mills’ post on social media.
In the post, Mills wrote, “Friday Night Football is back!! Little tailgating and helping to keep fans hydrated. Remember to support your local schools and sports programs. Was a fun evening. Thanks to everyone who stopped by. The support is amazing.”
While candidates and/or their supporters may attend school functions wearing a T-shirt or cap, Martin said candidates “are not supposed to set up a booth or actively campaign. We’ve always had that policy. We can’t exactly have everybody (candidate) set up a tent.”
Additionally, “if you let one do it, you’ve got to let them all do it,” Martin said.
Martin said in the event a principal receives a request from a candidate wishing to actively campaign, they must consult with the superintendent.
Mills said he did not get permission to tailgate at the game, and he wasn’t near the admissions gate for the game.
Regardless, “I did get an email from the school superintendent that wasn’t permissible after the game, we don’t intend to do that anymore. We were just tailgating in the parking lot,” he said.
The email states in part, “Employees of the Henry County School Board are encouraged to exercise all of their rights as citizens, including involvement in political activities, and to engage in citizenship activities, to set examples by registering to vote, and to participate in elections and carrying out other duties of responsible citizenship. No employee of the Board, however, shall use his/her position within the school system to further a political cause, nor shall any employees of the Board attempt to indoctrinate students or to use the classroom as a forum to promote any candidate or issue.
“The School Board acknowledges the right of its employees as citizens to run for political office, and will grant them leaves of absence to campaign and serve. All employees of the Board may take part in political campaigns so long as it is not done in the name of the Henry County Public Schools or any of its agencies. Participation cannot be done in a manner which might be construed to indicate official partisan support of an organization or a candidate by the school division.
“Badges, buttons, and printed political advertisements may not be distributed by or to employees of the School Board or students on school property during the school day nor shall school mail or facilities be used to promote a candidate or to produce or to distribute any partisan political materials.
“The classroom shall not be used as a forum to promote any candidate or issue.
“Persons who seek political office and individuals who represent those seeking political office are not permitted to use the schools to promote their candidacy … It has been, and will continue to be, our practice that campaigning is not conducted on school grounds. This includes after school opportunities such as extracurricular activities and athletic events.”
Mills said he plans to comply with the letter from the superintendent.
“We don’t want to cause any issues. We were simply tailgating, and we fixed some hotdogs for ourselves and that was about the extent of it,” he said.