Band barred from presidential visit seeks changes
October 18, 2004
RENO – Members and supporters of the McQueen High School band barred from performing at a political rally for President Bush plan to ask the school board to change the policy.
The band was prohibited from playing at the rally last week in Reno because of a policy that forbids school-sponsored organizations from engaging in party politics.
But band supporters and at least two school district trustees said the band should have been allowed to play for the president.
“When our youth have a chance to play for the sitting president – the president of the greatest nation on Earth – then they should be given this wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime chance,” said trustee Galen Mitchell, a registered Republican.
“There are many aspects of this board policy that are vague and need to be changed.”
Trustee Nancy Hollinger, also a Republican, said she also supports changing the band policy.
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But Trustee Lezlie Porter, a Republican, said any change in policy should ensure that students are not used as political pawns.
“I fault the way the Bush people set it up,” Porter said. “If the rally would have been open to anyone, then I would have said no problem, let them play. But the way it was set up, it was almost exclusively for Republicans.
“That is where I draw the line,” she said. “If students wanted to play at a rally that is open to all citizens, I could support that.”
Tickets were required for the Bush rally and could be picked up at GOP headquarters.
More than 50 band members crowded district offices last week to speak to interim Superintendent Paul Dugan.
“We are going to speak to some lawyers and hopefully draw up what we think the policy should say instead,” said band member Mark Corbin, 17.
“If there is an intent by the candidate to use students for political gain, then that is not right. But we are going to find some people to write something out that makes more sense and try to reason with the school board,” Corbin added.
He and others added that playing at major political rallies could help the band’s chances of being invited to march in next year’s Inauguration Day parade.
The McQueen band played at a rally for Vice President Dick Cheney in Reno last month. But district officials said they were unaware of that performance until last week and did not approve it.
Dugan said the issue will not be resolved at Tuesday’s board meeting.
“This is a policy issue that is not on the agenda, so if the board decided to deal with it, it would have to be placed on an agenda for a later meeting,” Dugan said.