South Bay : District Seizes Political Signs Made at School

A little extracurricular activity in a high school woodworking shop has some El Segundo City Council candidates fuming.

Until Monday, nearly 250 campaign yard signs for one of their opponents, Michael Gordon, were being assembled after class by students being paid $4.25 an hour at El Segundo High School.

Gordon, who is one of six candidates running for three City Council seats in the April 9 election, said he was approached by two El Segundo High School teachers about putting the signs together. One of the teachers was woodworking teacher Anthony Hawkesworth, he said. Gordon saw nothing wrong. "I paid for the signs and the materials and I'm paying the students," he said.

But Bill Monahan, superintendent of El Segundo Unified School District, is appalled and is investigating the matter. "The school district has a policy to keep a nonpartisan position [on elections] and prohibit school employees, particularly during working hours, from using equipment, resources or anything regarding political campaigns."

Monahan said neither he nor high school Principal Billie Jean Knight knew anything about he signs until he began receiving calls Sunday afternoon.

The school district confiscated the 246 campaign signs Monday and is holding them until it decides whether anything illegal occurred.

But City Council candidates are angry. "These irregularities violate the basic American principle of democracy, as well as the legal principle that government agencies do not engage in political activities or get involved in political campaigns and certainly do not use public facilities," said Mike Robbins, a City Council member running for reelection.

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