Michelle Obama, Romney denied use of Osceola schools; board member wants policy change



OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - WFTV has learned that Osceola County schools turned down a visit from first lady Michelle Obama, during the presidential campaign last fall, because of a policy intended to keep political events off school grounds. Obama wasn't the only high-profile person turned away.

Michelle Obama's stop at the University of Central Florida last year put the school on the national stage, and the campaign paid thousands to use the school's facilities.

Osceola County school board member Jay Wheeler said his county missed out on at money.

"We had to turn down Michelle Obama and Mitt Romney, and it's nuts," said Wheeler.

For at least 15 years, a district policy has prohibited political events on campuses. So when the Obama campaign wanted to stop at Liberty High School and Romney's camp wanted a rally at Osceola High, both were turned down. Wheeler wants the policy changed.

"It's a teachable moment. Imagine government students from all over the county attending both of them," said Wheeler.

Darlene Seawright, mother of a ninth-grader, agrees with Wheeler.

"They need to be exposed to it as much of it as they can, so they understand what's going on," said Seawright.

Wheeler said he wants to take it further and allow booster clubs to sell ad space in schools, and open campuses for debates in addition to those rallies.

A school board spokesperson said one thing to consider is whether or not local schools handle big political events. The new gym at Osceola High School can seat more than 2,000 people.

School board member Tom Long said there's no room for politics in schools.

"For those of you that ever ran for political office, it's a war. We do not need to bring war into our schools," said Long.

The school board will hold a public hearing on the issue on Jan. 29 and the board members will vote on the proposed change shortly after.