Homecoming turned political: Why Johnston Schools may change parade float rules


JOHNSTON, Iowa — The Johnston Community School District is “re-examining” the rules for who is allowed to have a float in the homecoming parade.

Just last Thursday at this year’s homecoming parade, a red Jeep with former President Donald Trump flags went along the route, with other floats having other presidential candidate signs. Every year people running for local offices, like school board and city council, will have floats in the parade.

Members of Johnston’s student council were surprised when the floats showed up because registration for the parade goes through them. Four candidates for Johnston school board positions: Lori Stiles, Charles Steele, Josh Nelson and Michelle Veach all signed up for a float under their own name. That made the student council believe that the floats would only represent their individual campaigns.

“There was a hold up at the start of the parade, essentially, because they didn’t know what to do with these extra cars and trucks that had shown up,” said Abby Harris, a senior at Johnston High School and the communications liaison for the school’s executive board. “It’s just kind of saddening that this is what they chose to do. It is intended to be a week full of fun, celebratory things that all of our students in the district have worked incredibly hard for. It’s all of our sports, all of our activities, and it’s supposed to showcase everything amazing that our school district does.”

Harris said that if presidential candidates had applied for a float, they would be denied. The parade has around 40 float spots yearly and the extra floats that showed up that day caused confusion.

The school district has a policy on political parties not being allowed to hand out information to students. But with the events last week, the district may not allow political party campaign entities at school events at all.

The homecoming parade is organized by the JHS Student Council each year. While local candidates are allowed in the parade, the float in question was entered under the names of four candidates running for Johnston school board. Parade organizers were unaware that there would be a float relating to presidential politics, and are re-examining the rules to prevent this from happening in the future.

Johnston Community School District

“It appeared that the four candidates in question were not playing by the rules and it feels especially gross because they’re deceiving high school students who are the ones planning the events,” said Sara Parris, a JCSD parent.

The four school board candidates in question responded to an interview request with their own statement:

Every year, the Johnston Homecoming Parade has candidates and current office-holders walking in it from school, city, state, and perhaps even national offices.  It’s a highlight for them–being able to pass out candy to the kids in the community and be a part of the festivities. This year was no different, and we were happy to attend.  Any complaints about us four school board candidates doing what is the norm are obviously politically motivated, and not focused on the spirit of this community event.

Lori Stiles, on behalf of herself, Charles Steele, Josh Nelson, and Michelle Veach

Stiles also sent WHO 13 News screenshots of posts on Facebook that show two democrats running for the Iowa House in 2019 participating in the homecoming parade. She said that those who are now complaining against conservatives in the parade, have supported liberals in the past.

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