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Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Last week on my blog I published an email from a reader who’s a parent of a Salem High School student.
It complained about Del. Greg Habeeb’s prominent left-sleeve ad on a school spirit T-shirt. The shirt was handed out free to 1,400 students at Salem High, where Habeeb’s brother, Scott Habeeb, was recently appointed principal. It’s also being sold in the community.
The author pitched it to me as a column. I declined; it didn’t strike me as a big deal. But with the author’s OK I posted the email on the blog with the writer’s name redacted. The reader didn’t want to embarrass the student.
Here’s the salient part:
“A school principal allowing [his] brother’s political advertising (paid or not) to be prominently displayed on hundreds and hundreds of shirts, given out free to all students and encouraged by the community to pay for and wear to Friday night football games ‘to show our community pride’ is poor judgment by the school administration at the very least, if not crossing some more serious boundaries.”
Now it’s a column. Why? Because the letter ignited a furor I never saw coming.
The blog post drew 246 comments, not including the ones I didn’t approve for various reasons. A later post seeking input from readers for this column drew 53 comments. That’s about 10 times the normal response to reader letters, which I feature on the blog often.
Some defended the school administration, the ads on the shirt and the Habeebs. Others criticized each. Some noted that it’s not at all unheard of for local politicians to advertise at schools in their districts.
Others wondered whether Greg Habeeb got preferential treatment, whether he paid for the ad, and if he got a prominent position on the shirt because his brother was principal.
Did it violate any Salem schools policy? Would it be allowed in other school systems?
Here are some answers.
Would this even be an issue if former Salem High Principal John Hall, who retired last spring after 26 years, was still the school’s helm? Would it be an issue if Greg Habeeb wasn’t a delegate? The answer to both is probably no.
Does this suggest there’s some undercurrent of animosity toward one or both Habeebs? That’s a harder question to answer.
Greg Habeeb suggested there may be a handful of people who dislike him who felt comfortable criticizing him anonymously. “The negative draws a lot more than the positive.”
He added: “I know what Republican elected officials’ poll numbers are in Salem. And they are different than what you see in comments on a blog.”
Perhaps he’s right.
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