By Cam Edwards
Okay, this is getting ridiculous. When we last checked in with the Cedar Cliff High School football booster club, everything was going great. As our friend Salena Zito reported, the booster club’s decision to raise money for the local high school football team by raffling off several firearms wasn’t derailed by the complaint of a single parent, even after local media ran a big story trying to turn the raffle into a controversy.
The school, citing its lack of jurisdiction over the matter, didn’t try to stop the event. The community didn’t storm the school with protests outside its doors. It was hard to find any evidence of outrage, even on social media.
Around here, the whining winds of outrage were still because people in this community calmly said, “Not in our town.”
Well, not so fast. Turns out the local paper hasn’t given up trying to create a scandal over the gun raffle. Note what Salena Zito wrote above; the school said it had no jurisdiction over the raffle. Now the paper in nearby Harrisburg says that’s not so.
School board policy 915 says: “Booster organization fundraising activities shall be requested in writing and approved by the Athletic Director and building principal, and conform with District guidelines.”
Among those guidelines is a statement on the district website that schools will not be involved “in any way with fundraising activities that involve the use or sale of weapons.”
First off, that’s a dumb policy and the school board should vote to repeal it at their next meeting. You could host a golf tournament to raise money for the school’s athletic teams but not a sporting clays tournament? That makes no sense.
I would also argue that the district’s policy rejecting fundraisers that involve the “use or sale” of weapons doesn’t really apply to a raffle that includes guns as prizes. No guns are being used in the selling of raffle tickets, and purchasing a raffle ticket isn’t the same as purchasing a firearm. If it was, my collection would be a lot bigger than it is. Nobody bought or sold a gun during this raffle. People purchased raffle tickets for the chance to win several prizes, including firearms that had been donated by a local gun store. I suppose you could argue that including guns as raffle prizes violated the spirit of the school board policy, but it definitely doesn’t violate the letter of the law.
This is such a non-issue that you wonder why reporter Christine Vendel spent so much time and energy trying to manufacture a controversy. She even went to the state Department of Education to try to rat out the school district for its supposed violation of its policy.
A state Department of Education spokeswoman said the agency did not have a role in regulating booster clubs or nonprofits that support students; however individual school board polices may apply.
In other words, the school boards self-police their policies regarding booster clubs, which means that even if the district is in violation of its policy on the sale and use of weapons in fundraisers (though it’s not), there’s no real punishment or consequence for doing so. If a booster club were to raffle off something completely inappropriate (like lapdances, for instance), the community itself would raise a hue and cry and force the school board to change course. That’s exactly what the anti-gun parent tried to do, but they failed because the community at large doesn’t have a problem with gun ownership or raffling off firearms to benefit the local football team.
Here’s my question to Vendel: what exactly were you hoping to accomplish here? As a reporter, what outcome would make you sit back and think to yourself “Yeah, I did some good here”? Stopping the raffle from taking place and preventing the local high school football team from getting some financial support from the community? Forcing the school district to admit it was wrong to not put a halt to the raffle before it began? Seeing your story retweeted by Shannon Watts?
Vendel is a public safety reporter for the Patriot News/PennLive, for crying out loud! It’s not like there’s so little crime in Harrisburg to cover that she needs to manufacture a controversy over a small community’s booster club raffle. I’ll say this though: if sales were slumping before her story I guarantee they’re going fast now, because it’s not just about helping out the high school football team anymore. Now every ticket sold is also a middle finger to the press outlets determined to create a scandal out of a small town’s respect for the right to keep and bear arms.