Band’s Excuse Sounds Flat to Democrats

Times Staff Writer

The Poway High School band played at Thursday’s campaign rally for George Bush at the Sports Arena, which featured President Reagan, but turned down a request from the Michael Dukakis campaign to attend the Democrat’s appearance at Horton Plaza last Monday.

And that has the executive director of the San Diego County Democratic Committee crying foul.

Beverly Miller said Friday that she will file complaints with both the county and state boards of education alleging that the nonpartisanship of the students at Poway High has been exploited.

“Poway claimed that their appearance was for the President and not as a campaign event, but clearly the rally was anything but nonpartisan--nobody is naive enough to believe otherwise--yet they told us that their band could not participate for Dukakis because that was a partisan event,” Miller said.


Walt Swanson, assistant superintendent for instructional services in the Poway Unified School District, said Friday that there was no intention to play politics.

Unlike some other school districts in the county, Poway has no set policy regarding appearances by school groups at political campaigns and handles each request on a case-by-case basis.

In the case of the Dukakis campaign, Swanson said, he received the request and asked the principals of the district’s two high schools whether the bands could appear. He said both principals felt that the noon appearance at Horton Plaza would be disruptive to the students’ academic day.

“I left a message to that effect with the Democratic office and heard no more,” Swanson said.


As to the Reagan appearance, the rally’s later starting time of 3 p.m. meant minimal disruption to the academic schedule of band students in the opinion of the principal, Swanson said. In addition, the chance to perform for an incumbent President was also considered relevant.

“Our responses in each case were based on honest considerations,” Swanson said.

Bands from Crawford High in the San Diego Unified School District and El Cajon Valley High in the Grossmont Union High District turned down invitations to the Reagan rally because of district policies prohibiting such appearances. The Castle Park High band from the Sweetwater Union High District did appear along with Poway, also believing that the presence of the President overrode partisan considerations.