High school requires parental consent for Santorum speech

The Daily Caller

Since Monday, school district officials in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, first canceled a decision to allow Rick Santorum to speak at Grosse Pointe South High School, then reversed that cancellation.

There is a catch, though: students who want to see the former U.S. senator and presidential hopeful must first obtain permission from their parents.

A local chapter of the group Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) had originally invited Santorum to speak at the high school on April 24, explains the Detroit Free Press. The group raised $18,000 for the speech — presumably to cover costs and pay any fees to Santorum.

Senior Langston Bowens, 18, who apparently spearheaded the effort to bring to Santorum to the school, said the social conservative would speak on leadership — how to make good decisions and stick by them, that kind of thing.

The principal, Matt Outlaw, had allegedly approved the invite.

On Monday, however, school district officials sent a mass email to parents saying that Santorum’s speech had been called off.

Then, on Wednesday, after a couple days of intense criticism, those same officials decided they wanted to keep their date with Santorum after all.

The recriminations — and subsequent recriminations following those recriminations — have been popcorn-worthy.

Students — particularly the ones who worked hard to raise the $18,000 — charge that school officials eighty-sixed Santorum’s appearance and subsequently decided to require parental permission slips because Santorum opposes gay marriage and has generally conservative views.

Adam Tragone, a Young America’s Foundation spokesman, told The Daily Caller in an email that Thomas Harwood, superintendent of Gross Pointe’s schools, canceled the appearance after receiving several messages from teachers concerning Santorum’s stances on marriage and education.

“Superintendent Harwood is injecting his own personal views into the situation and subsequently keeping students from hearing from an American public policy leader discuss the importance of being a leader in their school and community,” YAF vice president said.

School district officials reject this characterization of events.

“The cancellation Monday was in no way related to a stance on public education or gay marriage,” the school district said in a statement obtained by the Free Press.

Instead, the district claimed, YAF’s national organization failed to make an advance copy of Santorum’s speech available.

“With this compromise, families will have the opportunity to discuss and determine prior to the event whether they wish their student to participate,” the school district’s statement also read. “Staff will be given that same opportunity. Those who choose not to participate will continue with their regularly scheduled school day.”

District spokeswoman Rebecca Fannon indicated that district procedure is to insist on advance copies of speeches because minors would be in attendance.

For his part, Santorum said — on his website — that he “was never asked for a copy of a speech” and thus did not send one. “This has nothing to do with the content of a speech, but rather the context of my convictions,” he added.

School board member Lois Valente had an entirely different take. She suggested that Principal Outlaw should have sought permission from school officials before allowing Santorum to visit.

“I see this more as a debacle of administrative leadership than a liberal-bias educator trying to quash Mr. Santorum’s point of view,” Valente told the Free Press.

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