Miami-Dade school board delays vote on political-events ban

08/04/2012 12:00 AM

08/04/2012 7:48 PM

When a Miami Lakes high school was rented out last month for a campaign event featuring First Lady Michelle Obama, School Board member Renier Diaz de la Portilla pounced.

He called for the event at Barbara Goleman Senior High School to be canceled. Fellow Board member Carlos Curbelo, a Republican strategist, asked for a review of the school district’s policy.

The district allows all groups to lease school facilities. The Obama event cost $2,351, paid for by the presidential campaign.

Diaz de la Portilla proposed a controversial ban on future political campaign events in school facilities, saying he didn’t want children to become “political pawns.” Diaz de la Portilla is in the midst of a campaign to return to the Florida Legislature as a Republican state representative.

Board members heatedly debated the item last week. School Board Attorney Walter Harvey cautioned the board that the proposal raises First Amendment questions, and asked for the chance to brief the elected officials further on the matter.

“I think if the board were to move forward ... those risks are still there, and I’d like to minimize those risks fully,” Harvey said.

A majority of board members moved to table the item. Diaz de la Portilla, Curbelo and Vice-chairman Lawrence Feldman voted against the delay.

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