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South Group Planning Santorum Visit Fledgling Organization

The chapter of Young Americans for Freedom responsible for planning the visit by Rick Santorum later this month at Grosse Pointe South High School only became a sanctioned club by the school in February.

Grosse Pointe South's chapter of Young Americans for Freedom began planning the visit by Rick Santorum with the national organization immediately after gaining official sanctioning by the school.

Principal Matt Outlaw told Patch Wednesday the group gained official status in February, which gives them access to more resources within the school such as student announcements.

Meanwhile, a representative for the national organization, Adam Tragone, said Wednesday the South chapter first contacted the national organization in early March regarding the speech by Santorum.

The events evolving this week concerning the Santorum speech—its cancellation and then reinstatement with an opt-in option for parents and staff—have elicited strong reaction from not only residents within the Grosse Pointes but also from political activists far from the community.

Of course, some of the political views held by Santorum are a target of some reaction but also at issue are freedom of speech, politics during the school day and the ability of the student organziation to host a speaker during school days.

In reviewing the history of assemblies at South with Outlaw, he said the homecoming assembly is the only steadfast. This year, just before spring break the students did have an assembly with featured speaker Reggie Dabbs, a motivational speaker who is known among schools and speaks all over the world.

Dabbs was the result of work by several student leaders who have begun an "all in movement," which they refer to as AIM. The group involves the leaders of other sanctioned clubs at the school working together to achieve more unity among the student population. It is not a sanctioned or official group itself, Outlaw said.

Another issue being heavily discussed among readers is the $18,000, which was referred to repeatedly as being raised by students from the South chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, commonly referred to as YAF. The claim that the money was raised by the South students themselves was made directly by the South Chairman Langston Bowens on Twitter this week.

Tragone said Wednesday the $18,000 is coming from their organization at the national level. The payment of speaking engagement fees is generally paid for by the national organization, he said, and in many cases speakers may even do it for free as a result of their developed relationship with the national organization.

The $18,000 is intended to pay Santorum but also cover other expenses, Tragone said. Organizing speeches at schools--the majority of which are college campuses--is the national non-profit's "bread and butter," Tragone said. The organization exists based on donations, he said.

At the request of Patch, Tragone found a list of speaking engagement that occurred at high schools other than the scheduled Grosse Pointe South event. They include:

  • author Amity Shlaes at Providence Academy in 2009
  • columnist Deroy Murdock at Deerfield Academy in 2008
  • Lt. Col. Scott Rutter at Halifax High in 2006
  • Dinesh D'Souza at Indian Creek in 2001

A quick internet search shows the organization schedules a high number of speaking engagements at the college level. Tragone, who is a newer employee of the national organization, said he was unaware of such controversy happening related to one of their scheduled speeches specifically in a high school environment in the past as there has been in Grosse Pointe.

He noted some of the speakers have been "attacked" during their speech related to topics being discussed but said there has never been controversy related to the planning and scheduling.

The 280 "very active" local chapters are primarily at colleges, he said. Tragone could not specify whether the speeches at high schools were performed during the school day or afterward. He said such a decision would be made on a case-by-case basis.

At least one local attorney commented on Patch related to the decision to host Santorum, even with the opt-in option, as a move that then opens the school day to any type of speaker from any student group.

Neither Tragone nor South's local chapter vice chairman Peter Fox believe the goal of bringing Santorum to speak was a big deal. Fox told Patch late Tuesday the group had been looking to bring in a speaker related to the anniversary of when Martin Luther King Jr. came to speak at South, which was after school.

The local chapter, Fox said, worked hard to become sanctioned as an official club at South--only gaining that status after the Gay-Straight Alliance was granted official status.

Fox said the group, which originally began a few years ago as a young republicans group, made the change to YAF to gain the financial support it could offer. The lack of financial support made it hard to plan events, he said.

A policy committee meeting from March 27 addressed the topic of authorized student groups related to both board policies and administration policies, according to an agenda on the district's website. Minutes for that meeting or previous policy committee meetings were not available online late Wednesday.

Nancy Leggett Tuuri April 12, 2013 at 08:44 PM
GPDAD- I don't disagree with you on that, truly, as far a basis for qualifications as a speaker in leadership. I honestly think that, realistically, the same thing would have happened if the speaker had been sponsored by the GSA. The real issue with the program, IMO, is whether or not it should be/have been 1) mandatory 2) during school hours. The real issue with the response to the speech request is that it should have been given more consideration both before approval AND before cancellation. The students that were working to bring this speaker into the school deserved that respect. Dr. Outlaw should have spent more time considering the best venue for this event (i.e., during school hours, etc), and Dr. Harwood should not have cancelled so quickly without exploring possible alternative program options first. I have to honestly say that after seeing the YAF national web page outlining it's mission and steps to book a speaker I definitely had to say that it gave me pause, and this is nothing to do with Rick Santorum. I truly feel that if Dr. Outlaw had seen the YAF page and reviewed it in conjunction with the initial approval process that this event would have been approved in a very different format, and that cancellation/re-instatement would've been unnecessary. I think he felt unprepared by the objections. The speech will go on as scheduled, but hopefully a lesson was learned by the administration to ask more questions up front to make a more informed decision.
Michael April 12, 2013 at 08:47 PM
Aside from personal views, the problem the distrist has created is that external money can now buy its way into the school during the school day. That is a bad precedent to set. Whatever the message is.
Nancy Leggett Tuuri April 12, 2013 at 08:51 PM
Thank you Michael! I totally concur!
GPDAD April 12, 2013 at 08:55 PM
@Nancy L - I agree with you, it should have "originally" scheduled for after school hours. As for mandatory, it was only mandatory because it was in lieu of class instruction. It's really the teachers that had the "beef" with having to attend, since they are contractually required to attend events during the school day. The fact that it was a conservative speaker inflamed several liberal teachers and touched off this firestorm (as far as dis-inviting Santorum). I don't see why the speech request would require additional approval or consideration. Are you saying they should have consulted with the teachers (who originally objected)? It was already approved through the proper channels and the district expressed their excitement at having Santorum prior to the teachers threatening not to show up for school and sending Outlaw and Harwood YouTube video clips of Santorum taken out of context. I agree, this should have been thought through before it was cancelled at the behest of the teachers who have to authority in the speaker decision-making process; as their opinion does not count when the decision to select a speaker is made.
GPDAD April 12, 2013 at 08:55 PM
Also, concerning YAF, they were accepted as a bona-fide group condoned and by the school district after application and careful consideration. Just like the Gay, Lesbian Alliance. If you think they are controversial, they are no more controversial than the Gay and Lesbian Alliance. I don't think, retroactively speaking, that allowing Santorum to speak in the first place was a mistake. The mistake was allowing the teachers to get involved and influencing the cancellation. That was the tipping point that created this fiasco.
GPDAD April 12, 2013 at 08:59 PM
You are wrong Michael. The event is not being held during the school day and the event is not mandatory. Also, the money is technically not "external". A sanctioned school group utilized its national resources (no different than any other national organization that would provide resource to its chapters). The only precedent that is being set her is one of openness. Now, students can have access to oppossing views while not being held hostage to just one political body, religious body or social influence. It is nothing more then an expansion of the right to freedom of speech and freedom of information.
Nancy Leggett Tuuri April 12, 2013 at 09:00 PM
I am absolutely NOT saying he should have consulted with the teachers prior to approving this event. I am also not saying he didn't approve through the proper channels. I am merely saying that if he had been more prepared to handle those objections by having already researched the organization sponsoring the event that he would have been prepared to defend his decision. As it is I think he was blind-sided with information that caused him to make a knee-jerk reaction.
GPDAD April 12, 2013 at 09:02 PM
Nancy Z you are wasting my time. http://grossepointe.patch.com/articles/assembly-featuring-rick-santorum-at-grosse-pointe-south-cancelled Diane Smith 7:29 pm on Tuesday, April 9, 2013 Santorum hates gays and blacks. Sounds like he needs to find another school to speak at this year. I have no problem with the cancellation. I'm not going to keep going through threads to repost what you can read for yourself. How about just admitting the tenor or the thread(s) has been hostile toward Santorum and conservatives for that matter.
GPDAD April 12, 2013 at 09:08 PM
Nancy the organization is a sanctioned school group. The group was originally a Young Republicans group that formally organized as a YAF group so they could acquire the financial resources to bring in speakers. That is generally the purpose of these student groups, to bring awareness, openness and different opinions to the student body. The group was well researched and approved by the school long before the speaker request went in. What you are saying then is that the group should never had been allowed to form..?? And if that's what you are saying then you are clearly not on the side of free speech and openness of opposing views.
Nancy Z. April 12, 2013 at 09:11 PM
Apparently, GPDAD, anyone who disagrees with you is a "crybaby." OK. Whatever. Your reading comprehension issues are staggering.
Nancy Leggett Tuuri April 12, 2013 at 09:12 PM
As to the YAF and GSA being controversial-- they both are. Unquestionably. But before approving a request, even from a sanctioned club, I think it's always wise to be informed. Especially because it is a potentially touchy situation- not to prevent the speaker from being approved, but rather to be ready for the inevitable backlash that GP is famous for! I think Dr. Outlaw was being woefully naive in not anticipating some pressure from a number of different sources. He should have been prepared to defend his decision. Again, this could have been avoided but for the poor management of the issue by the administration. It has been a fiasco, unfortunately.
GPDAD April 12, 2013 at 09:15 PM
Ahhhh yes, I see what you mean. For sure. Be better prepared to speak to the press is definitely a good idea. Controversy is ok. It's bound to happen, no doubt. But being well prepared to side with equality and openness is definitely something that seemed to fall through the cracks. I agree wholeheartedly. =]
Nancy Z. April 12, 2013 at 09:21 PM
GPDAD, attendance at the assembly is NOT mandatory for staff as noted in the quote from the 2nd article: "District officials decided Wednesday to reinstate the assembly for April 24 with a provision allowing students and staff to opt-in if they wish to see and hear Santorum's speech, according to the press release." So what happened was NOT (in your words) "a bunch of teachers were pissed off that they would be forced to attend the event because it was going to be held during school hours and they are contractually obligated to be there." The teachers do not have to be at Santorum's speech if they don't want to--and I'm pretty sure there will be enough teachers who actually want to go and chaperone the event that adult supervision won't be a problem at the assembly. Do you have some sort of persecution complex? You come across as hateful and paranoid. Is that what you want to present? Believe it or not, there isn't a liberal hiding behind every corner...and even if there were, not all of them want to censor conservatives and not all of them hate conservatives.
Edward Smith April 12, 2013 at 09:25 PM
Great comments and truth from GPDAD and others. Who is Nancy Z? No last name? Sounds fishy.
Nancy Leggett Tuuri April 12, 2013 at 09:30 PM
Hurray! We proved that we can listen to each other views! Hurray for free speech and democracy! :)
Nancy Leggett Tuuri April 12, 2013 at 09:42 PM
Except, GPDAD, that it IS still being held during the school day. Students who opt out will have regular classes.
GPDAD April 12, 2013 at 09:44 PM
Nancy Z - I am trying so hard not to embarrass you or be the bully that you clearly are by trying to paint me as a bully. A nice tactic thought when you want to passively attack someone. You've already insulted me a number of times; maybe you only respect people who can hurl insults back. Originally, the event was mandatory, in that teachers had to attend, as it was during school hours. Not being present could have ended up in termination. It is clear you don't know what I was talking about to Peter below and you aren't too sure of the timing of events. That's ok- how could you know what I knew from the teachers that TOLD ME what happened. When I said “I think what really happened" I wasn't postulating. I was regurgitating what occurred. If it helps, I have a direct relative that works in the district. Unless you do to, or you are a teacher, I think I know a little more about it than you. Calling me names and telling me I have a "complex" is an outward reflection of your intent to do me harm by trying to embarrass me or get me in some kind of I gotcha moment. Kinda mean spirited and aggressive of you. I would suggest you take a long look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you are really being fair hear, or just trying to argue to make some point, which I still have not figured out, since I have debunked all your accusations. I forgive you though.
GPDAD April 12, 2013 at 09:48 PM
That's Ed, just trying to balance things out as best I can. I don't know who Nancy Z is.
GPDAD April 12, 2013 at 09:52 PM
Really, Nancy could you please post a link to where it says it will be held during regular class hours. I would like to see that. Thanks.
Nancy Leggett Tuuri April 12, 2013 at 09:56 PM
GPDAD- Here you go! http://gpschools.schoolwires.net/site/default.aspx?domainid=371
GPDAD April 12, 2013 at 10:05 PM
Yep I see it there plain as day- April 24, 2013 12:45 - 1:45 PM. That's interesting because I heard from two different people in the school that it was going to be moved to after school with written permission slips required from the parents. But the the webpage has School Assembly hours with the Opt-in Opt-out process, which is a separate procedure, not the same as the permission slip.
GPDAD April 12, 2013 at 10:10 PM
I just got off the phone with someone who knows for sure, and it looks like they are indeed going to hold it during school hours- but gave teachers a pass on mandatory attendance. So, that's good, everyone's happy.
Nancy Z. April 12, 2013 at 10:12 PM
Edward, I am a GPP resident. While I'm hardly anonymous (and I realize that NOTHING on the internet is or ever could be), I choose not to use my full name on a message board. Sorry if that sounds "fishy" to you. To be fair, though, I'm not the only one using a screen name that does not include my full name.
Nancy Leggett Tuuri April 12, 2013 at 10:16 PM
That's why Michael mentions the precedent. What would be a shame is to have the students get caught in the middle of a war from special interest groups as a result of poor planning on the part of the GPPSS administration!
Mark April 12, 2013 at 10:24 PM
GPDAD is a real name though?
GPDAD April 12, 2013 at 10:42 PM
Good point Mark. I should disclose, I am actually Glenn Beck.
1Percentwhopays4U April 12, 2013 at 11:36 PM
There is no longer any question of what "fly over country" means. Small minded, living in the past and passes for the teachers to not attend. What an embarrassment, welcome to Clown Town. See what no doc loans and no down payment gets you for neighbors!
Bill April 13, 2013 at 01:53 AM
What is the big deal exactly?
GDog Slim April 14, 2013 at 12:50 PM
MLK WASN'T POLITICAL ? what planet are you on ? At this time, King, Sr. had been a lifelong registered Republican, and had endorsed Republican Richard Nixon, before swithching sides in 1960 when RFK convinced him to switch. Do you think RFK did this to get blacks votes coming down the line? PS: The GOP was responsible for passing the Civil Rights Act in 1964, as well as the Voting Rights Act that passed the following year.
GDog Slim April 18, 2013 at 01:01 PM
The big deal, how I see it is that there are A LOT of intolerant liberals calling conservatives and the former Congressman nasty names. They do not want to hear another opinion from the conservitive catholic point of view speak at South and will do anything to discredit that person or that viewpoint.

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