High School Students in Massachusetts Lobbying in Behalf of Climate Change Legislation on School Time and the Taxpayer’s Money

       Recently,  Massachusetts State Senator Paul Feeney made a Facebook posting thanking students  from Attleboro High School along with their teacher for their lobbying efforts:
     Loved having students from Attleboro High School to the State House today. These students are engaged in a 2030 project class with Mr. Brian Hodges and have been working hard on climate change issues and a strategy to affect change locally. Today, they took to the halls of the State House to meet with myself, Representative Jim Hawkins and others to lobby on behalf of “An Act to Promote Green Infrastructure and Reduce Carbon Emissions” filed by Representative Jennifer Smith Benson.
     These students were prepared, articulate and passionate. I’m thrilled that they got to witness me sign on to the bill while they were in my office. Following their presentations, we all went down to the Senate and House chambers for pictures and of course, A #SenateSelfie !!!!!!”
      I E-mailed the members of the school committee suggesting to them that using public school students to lobby on behalf of legislation was illegal and unethical.  I received a reply from the chairman of the committee Mr. Steven Withers:
      “Mr. Shurtleff- thanks for you email and bringing this to my attention. That being said, I don’t see an ethics violation here.
      I E-mailed  Mayor Paul Heroux asking his for his input.  Here was his reply:
     “Well the fence. I think that public employees lobbying on public Time for something that is an advantage to them should be prohibited. But I think that bringing students to the state house to learn about the process is a completely different thing.
      I did agree with Mayor Heroux that bringing students to the state house to “learn about the process” is proper.   I would have made a stop at the State House Book Store and made sure they all picked up a copy  of the Massachusetts Constitution.
  I wonder what would be their reply would be if  the teacher used the students on school time to lobby for bills promoting the repeal of gun laws, or bills promoting the Pro-Life agenda.   It appears that it is okay for students to hear just one side of the climate change issue, and then lobby on behalf of legislation that favors the agenda of their teachers and politicians.
      In my “letter to the editor” that I just sent off,  I offered to provide credentialed speakers on the subject of climate change that differs from what the students are learning.  We will see if I they call, but  to paraphrase  Howie Carr, a popular Boston-based talk show host when my phone doesn’t ring, that would be the high school not calling.”
  Hal Shurtleff, Director
  Camp Constitution
Senator Feeney’s facebook page