‘A Republican was here. What gives you the right to propagandize impressionable kids?’
Teachers at a middle school in Portland, Maine, are upset with attendees of a Republican convention who rifled through teachers’ materials in a classroom they were using and reportedly stole materials from the room, replacing it with GOP slogans.
Officials from the Maine Republican Party quickly apologized this week after local news sources reported on an incident at Portland’s King Middle School. Eighth-grade social studies teacher Paul Clifford returned to his classroom following a meeting of the Knox County Republican caucus there to find that his teachers’ materials had been rifled through and a poster outlining the history of the US labor movement was missing, replaced with a bumper sticker that reads, “Working People Vote Republican,” reports the Portland Press-Herald.
What’s more, according to the Bangor Daily News, the Republican operatives also rifled through a closed cardboard box containing copies of the US Constitution, donated by the American Civil Liberties Union. And Clifford found a note nearby that stated, “A Republican was here. What gives you the right to propagandize impressionable kids?”
According to the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, the Republicans objected to ten years’ worth of school projects showing what freedom of speech means to students:
[Republicans] were apparently displeased with artwork in the room — in particular, says Clifford, a series of collages that students had created over the last ten years as part of a recurring project on freedom of speech.
“And one of the collages had a picture of George Bush standing at a podium, and he had no eyes, and it says ‘I can see evil’ and it shows him throwing all these different things into a trash can, like the word ‘peace’ and these types of things,” Clifford says.
MPBN also reports that school officials received anonymous complaints about the nature of the materials found in the classroom.
“We allowed them to use the space and I’m appalled that they would go through a teacher’s things, let alone remove something from a classroom,” school committee member Sarah Thompson told the Press-Herald Wednesday. “We want the public to use school spaces, but they need to respect that it’s a school and understand that they should leave it the way they find it.”
The Daily News reports that the particular contingent of Maine Republicans that used Clifford’s classroom were among the more radical participants in the state convention:
That same Knox County contingent later would lead a surprise campaign to replace the generic Republican Party platform with a new–and much more controversial–platform embodying many of the positions espoused by Tea Party activists….
On Wednesday, Maine Republican Party Executive Director Christie-Lee McNally apologized to faculty and students at the school.
“The King Middle School was kind enough to allow the Maine Republican Party to use their facilities, and we are deeply concerned about the lack of respect shown to the faculty,” McNally said in a statement. “The Maine Republican Party does not condone the destruction of property nor does it encourage the lack of tolerance that these people demonstrated.”
William Chapman, chairman of the Knox County Republicans, expressed regret over the incident.
“The school administration was kind enough to let us use the facility,” he told the Daily News. “We should have left it in the same condition that we found it.”