Student stirs up mayor's race
17-year-old's op-ed irks GOP, prompts state investigation
CONNECTICUT — A high school student’s political editorial almost became the focus of a state investigation in Vernon this fall.
Local Republicans asked the Connecticut Elections Enforcement Commission to investigate after senior Chris DelVecchio’s endorsement of incumbent Democratic Mayor Tony Muro appeared in the Rampage, Rockville High School’s student newspaper.
The Republican’s inquiry charged that a tax-funded school newspaper is not allowed to try to influence voters.
State law forbids candidate endorsement from public-funded materials.
In 1987, a California court ruled that a similar law did not apply to editorials in student publications as long as students made the content decisions.
DelVecchio believes that students should be encouraged to participate in politics and allowed to express their opinions.
“Students shouldn’t be restricted or held back in any way from learning about politics, that means picking a candidate,” said DelVecchio. “We were trying to elevate our student paper by taking sides. We were emulating what a professional paper would do.”
The Commission has dropped the investigation since Republicans did not file a formal complaint after the Republican candidate, Joe Grabinski, won the election in November.
An attorney for the commission, Ron Gregory, believes that the school board may address the question of whether student editorials may endorse candidates.
DelVecchio was disappointed that the issue was dropped without a resolution. Republicans invited DelVecchio to sit with the press at Grabinski’s inauguration.
Rockville’s Principal Alphonse Landroche supported students’ rights to express their opinion in the Rampage.
“It’s important that the students feel they have a voice that’s not going to be censored,” Landroche told the Hartford Courant.
reports, Winter 1997-98