The attorney for Orange County Public Schools scolded Orlando Commissioner Robert Stuart’s daughter-in-law for allowing children to wear a “Vote for Robert Stuart” T-shirt during a Princeton Elementary School PTA booster event.
Kristin Stuart is president of the Princeton PTA and her husband, Robert Stuart, Jr. is past president.
“The solicitation of a contribution from just one candidate, in a local city election, by a PTA president and immediate past president with direct familial ties to the campaign could give the perception that either directly or indirectly, the Princeton PTA and/or OCPS is endorsing that candidate,” OCPS Attorney Diego “Woody” Rodriguez wrote in an Oct. 23 letter to Kristin Stuart.
The shirts were given to children that participated in the annual Fun Run during the Sept. 22 Boosterthon, sponsored by the school’s Parent Teacher Association. The event was held on a school day.
Stuart’s campaign paid $250 to help sponsor the event. All sponsor names were placed on the back of T-shirts worn by children who participated in the event.
Robert Stuart is running for his fourth term as the Orlando District 3 city commissioner against Attorney Asima Adam.
Stuart declined to comment Wednesday.
Elisa DeFoe complained to Princeton Principal Jason Fritz and the Orange County School Board after she noticed the Stuart logo on her 11-year-old son’s T-shirt.
“I’m sure candidates are not allowed to slap logos on the back of shirts worn by public school children,” DeFoe said. “He’s (Stuart) a career politician and should know better.”
“I appreciate that the school board did the right thing,” Defoe said Wednesday about the attorney’s letter of admonishment.
Orange County School Board policy prohibits advertisements with a campaign or other political message on school board property.
“No organization or political candidate may sponsor an advertisement (including public service announcement) if the name of that organization or candidate indicates, reflects, or in any way suggests its political message or candidacy,” according to the policy.
Rodriguez went on to say in the letter that neither Princeton Principal Jason Fritz nor any other OCPS administrator was involved in the solicitation of the sponsorships.
The Princeton PTA bylaws also forbid campaign rhetoric at school events.
“The association shall not, directly or indirectly, participate or intervene (in any way, including the publishing or distributing of statements) in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office, or devote more than an insubstantial part of its activities to attempting to influence legislation by propaganda or otherwise,” according to the PTA bylaws.
Azam said Wednesday that she and her husband “have donated many times to our OCPS elementary school, including during this election, but we did so as Azam Family. We did not donate as “Elect Asima Azam.”
“Commissioner Stuart’s position that paying to have his campaign logo on school children was an innocent gesture of charity is a test of common sense,” Azam said. “It’s also noteworthy that while Commissioner Stuart sees nothing wrong with using our children as billboards to further his political agenda…it’s actually an express violation of the PTA charter and also has the potential to void the tax exempt status of the PTA.”
Rodriguez added that “OCPS will review the facts of this situation countywide with all of our PTAs so that in the future even the appearance of political involvement can be avoided.”