NORTH TOWNSHIP — You may have recognized the context of a controversial campaign ad that U.S. Senate candidate Jane Timken released last week.
The 30-second video, released statewide on March 28, shows Timken standing in a gymnasium with girls practicing basketball in the background. Behind Timken, you can see a dashboard with Hoover High School’s iconic Viking logos. The announcement was filmed in Hoover’s main gymnasium.
“As Jane is from Canton, Hoover High School is nearby and we were honored to use the space,” said Mandi Merritt, Timken campaign spokesperson. “We worked with [school officials]had a signed contract and were happy to let us in and accommodate us.”
Timken, who lives in the local Jackson school district, used the backdrop to criticize NCAA rules that allow transgender women to compete in women’s varsity sports after completing a year of testosterone suppression treatment.
Timken is one of seven U.S. Senate candidates in the Republican primary vying to succeed retired Rob Portman. The other Republican candidates are: Matt Dolan, Mike Gibbons, Josh Mandel, Neil Patel, Mark Pukita and JD Vance.
North Township parents and students upset that Hoover is part of the announcement
Some parents and students have questioned why North Canton City school leaders allowed their high school gymnasium to be used for a campaign message they see as divisive and an attack on transgender students.
Hoover’s Gay-Straight Alliance students were scheduled to meet with North Canton City Schools Superintendent Jeff Wendorf on Wednesday to discuss student concerns.
Learn more about the Hoover GSA:Hoover High debates whether students can use preferred names, pronouns without parental consent
Laura Hollis, a North Township mother and founding administrator of the private Facebook group, Protect North Canton CSD School Children, said she and her 165-member group received messages from students who felt unsafe in class following Timken’s announcement.
“We understand why and believe that the District’s actions, whether illegal or not, certainly violate their policy which states that use of facilities shall not interfere with the school’s educational program and be consistent with district goals. Hollis mentioned. “Some feel that this insinuates a clear political purpose of the NC school administration.”
Wendorf defended the district’s decision, saying the district doesn’t choose who can — and who can’t — use its public facilities. He said leasing school facilities is a business transaction only and should not be construed as an endorsement.
“North Canton City Schools loves all of our children and we don’t support any political candidates,” Wendorf said.
He cited state law and the district’s corresponding facilities use policy that require school districts to make school facilities available free of charge to any political candidate, party or organization for the purpose of carrying out public discussions on public issues and problems.
“I use the same reasoning for political candidates as the law and [district policy] use for facilities,” Wendorf said. “It wasn’t a meeting, and that’s why we charged them rent. That’s why it wasn’t free.”
An invoice shows that FP1 Strategies, the Arlington, Va.-based marketing firm that secured the gym for the Timken campaign, paid $160 for facility rental.
North Canton’s policy, which is nearly identical to Jackson’s local schools’ facility use policy, prohibits the district from allowing the use of school facilities to raise funds for political purposes. It also stipulates that the use of the facilities by candidates or political groups must take place after school hours.
According to the facility agreement signed by FP1 Strategies, filming was to take place between 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on March 8. Minnick, from the Timken campaign, confirmed on Wednesday that they were on schedule in the signed contract.
Wendorf said the district attempted to reschedule the commercial’s filming to an hour after school, but the gymnasium was busy at those times, so filming took place during the school day. He said the announcement did not include Hoover students.
Contact Kelli at 330-580-8339 or [email protected]
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