By JOHN KOPP
CHESTER — Delores Shelton sat behind a table at Chester High School April 15, helping eligible students register to vote.
A member of the Chester NAACP, Shelton said it’s a routine the organization has conducted there for more than 20 years.
She and her husband, John Shelton Sr., the branch’s former president, were just about to pack up when Principal Dr. Darla Hammond told them they had to “cease and desist,” she said.
“We packed up our things and she literally showed us to the door,” said Shelton, noting Hammond indicated the orders had come from higher-ranking administrators. “A child was trying to get her attention, (but) she had to make sure that we left the building. The only thing we were doing was letting the children practice their civil rights — and this is the right of all citizens who will be 18 by election day.”
Shelton said she was shocked and expressed her frustrations at the Chester Upland School Board meeting Thursday. There, board President Wanda Mann read a statement informing Shelton and the NAACP that outside organizations must gain permission from district administrators before hosting events on school premises.
“Unfortunately, no one from the NAACP asked the leadership of Chester Upland for permission to enter one of our schools for voter registration purposes,” Mann said. “Had they notified us of their desire to conduct such an event, we would have tried our best to accommodate them.
“We cannot run a district where organizations, no matter how well-intentioned they may be, have unrestricted access to our schools throughout the course of the school day.”
Shelton said the NAACP set up its voter registration session by contacting Hammond. She said the NAACP has held about two such sessions each year ever since her husband began the events more than 20 years ago. Shelton said the NAACP had never run into problems, noting the organization has also held voter education classes.
Despite the district’s familiarity with the NAACP, Mann said it must follow the district’s procedures.
“The NAACP is an important organization and we value the work that they do,” Mann said in her statement Thursday. “As a professional organization, I am sure the NAACP can understand the significance of protocol and proper procedure, especially where... [ READ MORE ]