A Chillicothe High School teacher who is running for office is coming under fire for allegedly using his students to campaign for political office.
Chillicothe Spanish teacher Greg Phillips is running as a republican to represent the city’s first ward on city council. He is challenging incumbent Beth Janes-Neal in the November 5th election.
On Thursday, Phillps posted on his personal Facebook page asking for volunteers to help his campaign canvass his neighborhood.
“Let’s have the largest Ward canvassing ever in Chillicothe’s history,” the post read. “I already have 16 people signed up. I want 40….Students: this can count as service hours too [sic].”
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“Service hours” are volunteer hours that students can preform outside of regular school hours that count toward required volunteering needed to enter school organizations, such as the National Honors Society (NHS), according to a male teacher who spoke only on conditions of anonymity. If accepted for membership in NHS, a student is required to perform 15 community service hours annually.
“Colleges search for well-rounded students who participate in extracurricular and cocurricular activities,” said the National Honors Society. “These are activities that extend your learning beyond your coursework, like participating in athletics or a student club.”
However, according to NHS rules, political campaigns are not allowed.
“Any student who participates in a political campaign and submits those hours to NHS will have those hours rejected,” said Sarah Eugene, a former member of NHS who now acts as a student adviser at University of Cincinnati.
Chillicothe Superintendent Debbie Swinehart said the matter is under review by her office.
“I want to go back and look at the board policy and find out [if any policies were violated],” she said on Friday. When asked if teachers were allowed to recruit students for political candidates or campaigns, the superintendent replied, “no.”
Phillips simply replied, “no comment” when asked on Friday by the Guardian for an interview.
“We are getting into very dangerous waters,” said Brad Smith, an attorney who also does political consulting work. “The teacher is protected by the union, but most Boards of Education prohibit this type of solicitation by teachers. The teacher is likely to face disciplinary action, but he is not likely to be terminated unless it is discovered that this was not the first time this has happened with him.”