UPDATE: Staunton School superintendent addresses controversial costumes worn by employees
UPDATE (Nov. 4):
Staunton City Schools released an updated statement regarding the controversial Halloween costumes worn by R.E. Lee High School's principal and the school's secretary.
Dr. Linda Reviea, Superintendent of Staunton City Schools, sent WHSV the following statement:
"We regret that the Halloween costumes worn by two R.E. Lee High School employees have offended and angered some parents, alumni, citizens of our community and others.
The costumes were inappropriate for the school setting and an exercise of poor judgment.
In no way should the actions of these employees be interpreted as a political statement made by the school division as a whole. It is the policy of Staunton City Schools that employees refrain from engaging in political activities on school premises, and Staunton City Schools has not endorsed or supported either presidential candidate.
We are addressing the matter in accordance with Staunton City Schools’ policies. Our school division remains firmly committed to demonstrating and maintaining professionalism, respect, tolerance and a safe environment in our schools and to a well-rounded education for our students."
UPDATE (Nov. 3):
After multiple requests for information from the Staunton City Schools Superintendent, Dr. Linda Reviea, she has provided an additional statement about the principal and secretary of Robert E. Lee High School dressing up as Donald Trump and 'inmate Hillary Clinton' respectively.
"It is a longstanding tradition of Staunton City Schools—and of many school divisions across the United States—to allow students and staff to engage in festive activities and dress in costume for Halloween. That said, the particular costumes worn by two employees at R.E. Lee High School were in poor judgment, especially so given the current political climate and the extraordinarily strong sentiments for the 2016 presidential candidates. I became aware of the situation Tuesday night (November 1) and instructed our staff to remove the images in question from Lee High School’s website the following day (November 2). We are handling the situation as a personnel matter and addressing the issue with relevant staff."
Brenda Lovekamp, Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent, says that "no further public comment will be provided at this time.
Please scroll below to read about the situation which led to this statement.
The principal at Robert E. Lee High School in Staunton dressed as Donald Trump, and a school secretary dressed as Hillary Clinton in an inmate's outfit for Halloween. Trump is the Republican presidential candidate for 2016. Clinton is the Democratic presidential candidate for 2016.
Parents in Staunton are not happy about the politically-charged outfits administration chose to wear in the school. Many on Facebook say they're not pleased with the idea.
Emberly Lynn Martin is one of those parents. In response to a photo of the school employees in their costumes she wrote on her Facebook page, "the fact that any school official would think its (sic) okay to dress like this leaves me appalled and floored."
However, in response to Martin's post, David C Duvall wrote, "there is nothing unprofessional about this. Its (sic) a relevant costume and its (sic) simple. No offensive language or imagery."
WHSV also spoke with Staunton political activist, Barbara Lee. She said she has lived in the city for 69 years and has never seen such hatred in a country from a presidential election. She said the staff could have made better choices.
"He could have dressed as Donald Duck, not Donald Trump," Lee said. "I want to make it clear, this was not a good joke, it upsets me."
WHSV reached out to Superintendent of Staunton City Schools, Dr. Linda Reviea, regarding the idea. In a response to WHSV's Jared Kline, she wrote:
"It is a longstanding tradition of Staunton City Schools—and of many school divisions across the United States—to allow students and staff to engage in festive activities and dress in costume for Halloween. That said, the particular costumes worn by two employees at R.E. Lee High School were in poor judgment, given the current political climate and the extraordinarily strong sentiments for the 2016 presidential candidates. I became aware of the situation on Tuesday night and instructed our staff to remove the images in question from Lee High School’s website today (Wednesday). We are handling the situation as a personnel matter and addressing the issue with relevant staff."
WHSV's Matthew Fultz reached out to Robert E. Lee H.S. principal Mark Rowicki for comment on the costume choice Wednesday afternoon. The principal told Fultz over the phone that he felt it was just a fun thing to do with the students. The principal explained that they meant no harm to anyone or to offend anyone. That includes the presidential candidates. Rowicki said the kids usually dress up at school on Halloween, so they just wanted to take part in it as well to connect more with the students.
Rowicki said he apologizes to anyone offended. He said if anyone is offended, they can call him directly or come down to the school and talk with him. He told Fultz he has not heard any complaints from students, teachers, faculty or parents so far.
The secretary pictured as Clinton in the photo is Stephanie Corbett.
At several of Donald Trump's rallies over the past few months, many in the crowds have chanted, "lock her up" in response to Clinton's use of a private email server while she served as Secretary of State.
Lee said she hopes something is done.
"Personally, I would like to see both of them lose their jobs because as a tax payer, I don't want to continue to see them get paid," Lee said.