Students React To Montclair High School Cancellation of Mikie Sherill Appearance

Former U.S. Navy pilot and U.S. Congress candidate Mikie Sherill was scheduled to speak with Montclair High School students about gun violence Tuesday, but the event was cancelled earlier this week, by the school.

Montclair Schools Superintendent Kendra Johnson stated in an email Monday in response to a letter from Michael D. Byrne, a member of Montclair Republican Club, that “pursuant to the recommendation of our Board Attorney, the assembly in question was cancelled earlier today.”

Byrne, in his email to Johnson, stated that “this letter is notify you and the Montclair Public Schools, that should you allow Ms. Sherrill, a Democrat candidate for Congress, to address students at Montclair High School in the context of the ongoing Democrat Primary for Congress, our [Montclair Republican] Club will seek equal and similar access.”

Lara Harvey, a Montclair High School student and member of the Civics & Government Institute (CGI), was one of many students disappointed by the school’s decision.

“Rodney Frelinghuysen, current Republican NJ representative, came to speak to CGI in recent years. The cancellation of Mikie’s visit also appears to have been influenced by the protesting of ADULTS in the Montclair community. People who wouldn’t be affected by this event are the reason for us not having it,” wrote Harvey in a Facebook post.

Earlier this week, Sherill visited West Orange High School. Sherill said in a statement to the Montclair Times that she looks forward to rescheduling the visit to Montclair High School.

Here is the full text of Byrne’s letter:

Dear Superintendent Johnson:

This letter arises from the article copied below, “Mikie Sherrill To Visit Montclair School, Speak On Gun Violence.”

As you may know, some years ago, the Montclair Public Schools sought to include anti-Second Amendment materials in the backpacks of schoolchildren. When residents of Montclair with contrary views in favor of the Bill of Rights sought to include materials with their viewpoint, they were initially denied by the School District. However, after a lengthy court case, the Montclair Public Schools were compelled to grant equal access to those citizens and an equal platform for their political views.

As you may also know, Ms. Sherrill is a Democrat candidate for Congress and has previously called for universal criminal background checks to cover all firearm sales, a federal assault weapons ban, limits on large capacity magazines, a ban of bump-stocks, and so-called “common-sense measures” related to the no-fly list and domestic abusers. She has added, “In Congress, I will work to save lives and help find responsible solutions America’s gun violence crisis.”

While Ms. Sherrill’s concern for gun violence may be admirable, she now seeks to use Montclair schoolchildren as props for her political campaign and to impart a single-sided, partisan view of how to allegedly solve what she calls a “gun violence crisis.”

Her proposals — and this speech 28 days prior to the Democrat Primary election — are obviously political in nature, (in addition to being unconstitutional in practice).

Thus, this letter is notify you and the Montclair Public Schools, that should you allow Ms. Sherrill, a Democrat candidate for Congress, to address students at Montclair High School in the context of the ongoing Democrat Primary for Congress, our Club will seek equal and similar access.

Indeed, we will welcome the opportunity to educate the young people of Montclair about the history of the Bill of Rights, the importance of the Second Amendment, and how both are essential to reducing gun violence in our society.

Respectfully,

Michael D. Byrne
Montclair Republican Club
MHS, Class of 1998

C: Members of the Board of Education
Members of the Township Council
Local Press

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33 COMMENTS

  1. “Byrne, in his email to Johnson, stated that “this letter is notify you and the Montclair Public Schools, that should you allow Ms. Sherrill, a Democrat candidate for Congress, to address students at Montclair High School in the context of the ongoing Democrat Primary for Congress, our [Montclair Republican] Club will seek equal and similar access.”” Confused why MHS didn’t simply respond, “Byrne!! By all means, send whichever pol or expert you like to address MHS CGI and probably the rest of the student body on why ‘more guns is school is a GREAT idea.’ Pick a date and we’ll make sure everyone is ready.”

    Bit tongue in cheek but yes, First Amendment says ‘both sides should have equal opportunity to speak.’

  2. So let a “Republican” go there and speak “about gun violence” [and not “campaign” for office, either, of course] also!

  3. Agree with jingoistic. Why cancel the event? Instead, have a Republican candidate come in to speak with CGI, in addition to Ms. Sherrill. They are intelligent students who are being taught critical thinking skills. They can listen to both candidates and make their own informed decisions about the merits and drawbacks of each candidate.

  4. I applaud the Montclair Republican club for their willingness to present the pro shooting-kids-in-their-school side.

  5. From what I’ve heard (and this may be apochryphal) a GOP representative was invited and did not respond. Not sure how correct this is, but if it is true, it speaks volumes.

  6. Is it something in our water supply that explains the ignorance of the law by the Montclair Republican Club? Yes, there is a case for not giving this candidate a platform – putting aside the speech was to minors in an environment that exists to educate these minors.

    But, clearly the MRC spokesperson wasn’t arguing that. Care to chime in here Ms Edelson?

    Just incredible on so many levels.

  7. Mistakes all around here. Schools are supposed to be non-partisan and not advocate for any particular candidate — especially aspiring ones. Inviting only one to speak, even on a current topic but right before a primary, does not reflect that spirit or adhere to our laws.

    Elected officials can of course speak in schools, as the past 11th Congressman has in front of CGI, but again, it should not be part of a campaign appearance. Ms. Sherrill is clearly seeking office, she does not hold one today, so the student’s argument above for equivalence just does not hold. However, the Montclair HS CGI (Civics, Government Institute) students actually ran the most incisive campaign debate for Montclair’s Council race during the 2012 election. All three mayoral candidates came to speak. The public was invited.

    The same thing could have been done here with all candidates who want to comment invited — instead of outright cancellation. If however, Bill Courson above is correct and Republicans were originally invited but then didn’t show, now Mr. Byrne’s letter becomes a hollow paper tiger. But if the Republicans were not invited originally, then CGI blew it. It will be interesting to learn the answer to this key question because that is the underlying issue — possible political bias for Ms. Sherrill, or just non-participation and then Republican party over-reaction.

    Nonetheless, my son attended the CGI and one of the topics studied was of course – 2nd amendment rights. A Locke v. Hobbs debate we all still face today. Government intrusions and State controls (for protections generally) v. individual freedoms and individual rights.

    What do you think the topic was that he chose to write his paper on about all that? Of course, gun control. And a very interesting debate about those constitutional issues impacting could have been framed again. With all 11th District Congressional candidates invited.

    Our students and the public would have been better for it.

  8. As always, well thought out and expressed, accurate point of view above by Martin Schwartz….

  9. as always?? hardly. i had to block this guy on FB bc he’s a raging Islamaphobe/racist.

  10. His Islamophobia is so extreme on FB. He is very proud of it. it’s disgusting and not at all in line with our community’s values. It’s too bad bc occasionally he comes up with well thought out and reasonable posts like the one above. People then assume he’s some sort of rational intelligent person. But in my mind he should be marginalized, and kicked off the planning committee. How can we be sure his Islamophobia doesn’t guide his work on that board?

  11. Yikes! Montclair can get ugly fast. Ms Sherill is running for an office that represents a small section of Montclair. She is going to do a little feel good cheerleading at the HS. Big deal. Let the kids get a glimpse of political BS. They are being groomed to sheep anyway.

  12. So typical of Democrats/Liberals, to be afraid to have the other side of ANY issue be heard!
    Whether, NYU, Berkeley, and now Montclair HS, what are they afraid of, that the other side’s position might actually make more sense to some ?? What other reason could there be?

  13. Frank Rubacky, there are a few ways to look at this, but generally, our Montclair Public School regulations exist for reasons. If folks want them changed, they can vote for a Mayor who will appoint folks who might change the regulations. Here’s one:

    District Policy 3233- POLITICAL ACTIVITIES

    …The Board prohibits the use of school premises and school time…for partisan political purposes.

    Some argue Ms. Sherrill wasn’t going to appear for partisan political purposes. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck …and the press release announcing her visit came from her campaign team, according to Montclair Patch.

    In my opinion, given the history of the Board ignoring its own policies, which happened in the 20-year-old event cited by Mr. Byrne, and which was an extreme abrogation of a policy that had just been passed a short time before (weeks, if I recall), Byrne was presenting possible 2nd/3rd options of providing alternate viewpoints on firearms safety (or other speakers? I haven’t read his letter recently) to give the MPS some options to get out of the corner in which they put themselves with this candidate’s appearance.

    There is no evidence I can find that other speakers were invited for this assembly by any party. As some local Facebook posters have suggested (and as Martin recalls from 2012), the students could have put on quite a good, non-partisan forum as a learning activity on the subject of firearms and violence with the range of Congressional candidates (including from the 10th CD, where MHS is located, and where the sitting Congressman has experience with very high rates of violent crimes committed with guns) who are pounding the pavement fewer than 30 days out from the primary; or with experts on firearms and violence.

    MHS students organize complex events regularly. (I think the three young ladies who mounted the March walkout should be put in charge of MHS 2018 commencement, in fact.)

    But that’s not what happened.

    I’m impressed with Dr. Johnson’s decisive action according to regulation. I hope this is a sign that she’ll be tough as nails on some of the other issues that are sure to come up over her tenure. This one is nothing in comparison to the big ones, though. Let’s move forward to 38,000 residents loudly expecting excellent, non-partisan education to be delivered to all of Montclair’s children who are enrolled in MPS.

    Happy Mother’s Day to all readers.

  14. Sickntired — thank you for your kind words.

    Fieldingmellish and yousosilly – very sad again to read intolerant comments like yours above. Especially when you can’t stay focused on a timely local issue. The resort to knee-jerk demonization: “he’s a racist islamophobe” — only shuts down serious discussion with attack labels when someone doesn’t agree with you. In this case over another issue — the excesses of radical Islam — something many reasonable people clearly have differing views on.

    Not you. Only your morality holds. You speak the truth for us all and are clearly been empowered to impose Montclair’s “community values”. Debate not welcomed. Off with his head.

    All this has nothing to do with the current thread so I suggest better trying to stay with the program. Maybe make a real comment on the story above if you have anything cogent to add.

  15. …The Board prohibits the use of school premises and school time…for partisan political purposes.

    I appreciate the parsing of the policy for the relevant phrases…and it matches my attention span!

    Hilarious policy points. Are you trying to prove my point?

    So, the policy, as you know, prohibits ALL “partisan” political activities. So, no candidates can come, same time or not. So, that means your MRC can’t set foot in the schools…ever! Will you break the news to your comrades?

    Do you think the BoE knows the definition of partisan when they wrote this?

    The best part to me is that the party initiating & pursuing the primary political purpose (read as gain), on school time & premises, is the CGI. Ms Sherrill is deriving ancillary benefits as result of the student’s political purpose. So, let’s tell the CGI they are banned from school premises because they are all pursing “partisan politics” by definition. It doesn’t matter if they hold different & widely diverse viewpoints. The simple fact they are part of the CGI is talk/walk/quack like a duck…right?

    This is pure folly.

  16. whatever, all of your points are undermined by your destructive hate of others. I can’t really hear anything else your saying. I’m here to undermine your credibility because I hate racists. Yes, I’m intolerant of intolerance. ironic isn’t it? You’re an Islamophobe and anyone reading this or other points you try to make publicly needs to know it. When you post again on another thread, I’ll be back.

  17. The rhetoric is getting a little out of hand. For the sake of our real estate values could the personal attacks become more civil. What next? A dirt bomb war in Anderson Park? “Hate doesn’t live here”…yea, right….anger sure does.

  18. Preach it Martin. The simple fact is that you did blow up Montclair Unmoderated with your rants on the subject and you have done the same on Facebook. The only place that will have you is trollville, Discuss Montclair. This is documented. Your response to the unnamed critics telling them to “get with the program” is more of the same. Look inward for your answers.

  19. Frank Rubacky, you’re such a dear. The consensus of many members of the Montclair Republicans is the same as yours — no partisan political activity in the schools at all is the preference. What we do know from history (the 20-year old case, and others) and current activity is that the Montclair Public Schools and the Board of Education at times cannot discipline themselves similarly in their own house; thus, the alternative and compensatory recommendations (as offered by Mr. Byrne) to cancel — and if the institution refuses, to at least provide alternative viewpoints. That Dr. Johnson cancelled is a watershed event in district management and discipline, in my opinion.

    “The best part to me is that the party initiating & pursuing the primary political purpose (read as gain), on school time & premises, is the CGI.” If you can provide evidence of this statement, I would welcome it. All available information suggests that this visit was scheduled as a campaign stop by the Sherrill campaign or associated parties. There is no evidence of a CGI ‘invitation’ out there at this time, TMK. If the students did originate the visit, do you agree that they ought to have been guided by their faculty advisors to follow district policy? The lack of evidence of a CGI invitation makes the warm & fuzzy concept of student ‘agency’ a false premise of this entire brouhaha.

  20. Jon, if your own angry, strom and drag oversight of the Watercooler is the authoritarian poster child being held out to illustrate proper social media communication now, well then the kettle here is not just black — it’s burnt. Sadly, you’ve continue the Bonesteel personal invective again here today.

    Please forgive me now if I have to leave it to others less intractable than you and our new keeper of the flame feildingmellish — to judge whether those perspectives or information insights I occasionally provide do hold water — and actually serve as some reasonable discourse and debate.

  21. Give it a rest fieldingmellish. We have enough self-appointed P.C. defenders who can’t comment on a topic seriously. Take your bleeding-heart for crazies who cut off people’s heads and move over to the children’s sandbox with all the other finger-pointing ‘racism’ criers. Adults are in the room here.

  22. no thank you. Ill call out racism and hatred in my own community as much as I like. By the way, Mr. Schwartz does not deny his racism, so it’s not me “crying” racism. He wants us all to understand that we need to hate Islam as much as he does. This is a guy with considerable public power in this town, as a member of the planning board. It is my view that he should be kicked off that board for his abhorrent views. I urge anyone to look up his posts on any of the town pages that he hasn’t been kicked off of, if there are any left, to see for yourselves. I’ll ask again, How do we know your Islamophobia doesn’t guide your work on the planning board?

  23. Spoken like a person who has been blocked from the group twice for violating board policies (agreed to by all 5 admins, not just me). I’ll compare my kettle to yours any day Mr. “the rules do not apply to me”. I invite anyone to go to Montclair Unmoderated on Yahoo and see and judge for yourself. BTW – Answer me this since you are on the Planning Board. Isn’t there a rule against promoting your own business with a sign in your residential front yard for say 5 years, or do you get a break on such things for “services rendered”?

  24. Let’s assume for a minute that the (terrific and well-intentioned) kids from CGI thought it would be interesting to speak to Ms. Sherrill as a Montclair neighbor and veteran on her life experiences and decision to run for Congress, that they invited her for that purpose, and that she accepted. In other words, let’s assume this had had nothing to do with firearms. Notwithstanding that Ms. Sherrill is a party’s candidate for office, I don’t think an event like that should be deemed “partisan” or tha a judge would be likely to do so. I’d hope that the CGI group would extend an invitation to Jay Webber in due course, too, for the same general purpose, and that Jay would take the time to come.

    I have a feeling—which may of course be wrong—that CGI or its faculty advisors thought they could not just invite Ms. Sherrill in for a general talk because of the ban on “partisan” activities, and that this belief is what caused the group to invite her in the context of a discussion about gun laws. If that’s what happened, I respectfully suggest it was a mistake. The Montclair Republican Club then compounded the mistake by going to DEFCON 1. The MRC, in my view, erred both substantively and politically by sending that letter. Substantively, I couldn’t tell if they were objecting to Ms. Sherrill’s presence as a candidate, to the issues she proposed to discuss, or both. If they were objecting to Ms. Sherrill’s presence, I get it, but unless the school was declining to allow Jay Webber or other candidates to come in and speak to students interested in talking to them, I don’t think the complaint has a lot of force. If they were objecting to the gun discussion, I get that, too, but absent a concrete proposal for another set of views to be presented, I don’t think that complaint has much heft, either. Politically, I don’t see how you win hearts and minds by depriving students of a chance to talk about the issues with a fellow Montclarion who is hoping to represent them in Congress.

    I completely agree that Montclair schools and students should not be used as props for political candidates to hold made-for-TV events, and for that reason, I also completely agree with the schools’ policy. I just don’t think that means someone who is running for office cannot ever cross the threshold of a Montclair school for any reason at all. I don’t know all the facts here and I therefore can’t say I disagree with Dr. Johnson’s ultimate decision. I just find myself wishing that the adults involved here all had acted more like adults and let the CGI kids find a way to interact with Ms. Sherrill as they wanted to do. There had to have been, and still has to be, a better solution than just a flat “no.”

  25. What difference does it make? Ms Sherill is going to preach to choir. Big deal..let it go. Ironic that I see more of her political signs in the area of Montclair that isn’t in the 11th district. Is it true that she had to move because she didn’t know she lived outside the district? I wish her well, she seems bright and accomplished but the majority of the district she intends to represent is a world away from Montclair.
    Case in point, the venom being spewed here is enough to make anyone question “Montclair values”. This thread would make great fodder for her opponent.

  26. I can’t disagree with you more flipside. Of course she is preaching to the choir…for maybe 5-10 minutes. If she continues beyond this, the kids will get on their phones and start texting, etc. and just hear the faint Muzak-like sounds of blah, blah, blah. Kids at this age are naive, not stupid.

    Ms Sherill likely doesn’t run on stupid either and has done enough of these events, and with her experience, would have been prepared in meeting this audience. Campaign events have bad outcomes, contrary to popular opinion by our dear MRC.

    The kids would likely to have heard her thought process and reasoning on the gun issue and why she thinks government service (and moving to the the 2nd Ward) is not a stupid choice.

    Bottomline, the kids are exposed to superior critical thinking skills. That is the big takeaway.

    Hopefully, the kids can enjoy their naïveté at least through their age of full consent.

  27. FrankR…I think you totally agreed with me. It doesn’t matter. Kids have already heard everything she will have to say a hundred times over. Don’t you think it’s a tad arrogant to say the big takeaway is that kids will be exposed to superior critical thinking skills? Don’t you miss William F. Buckley debating Gore Vidal? Milton Friedman debating everyone in sight? A political speech is just plain boring. She will get her cheers from the crowd and a photo op. That’s what politicians do. No harm, no foul….the Republicans should just let it go.

  28. Arrogant? I thought it was funny.
    Adult (superior critical thinking skills) / Minors (inferior critical thinking skills). By definition.

    PS: the Republicans are “winning” on this issue and are all singing “Time is on my side, yes it is. You’re searching for good times but just wait and see,(blah, blah, blah)

  29. MRC! MRC!

    Montclair’s office of Environmental Affairs and Community Green present “AWAKE, A Dream from Standing Rock” ….at our Montclair Public Library supported by out tax dollars!!!

    We all know your plank on environmentalism and minorities so this must be an affront to you.

    “Bad boys, bad boys, what are you gonna do when they come for you!”

  30. Speaking of Environmental Affairs I notice a lot of Sherill campaign signs in areas outside the 11th district. I was traveling on RT 10 in Morris Co and there were spots with a Sherill sign every 10 feet along the highway. Not very environmentally conscious.

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