Students preparing for debates

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Marshall County High School students are drafting questions about the economy, and more specifically jobs, as well as education issues for the upcoming political debates for state House and Senate candidates, according to their American government teacher.

"In Lewisburg, you don't see many kids getting jobs -- with people being displaced from the workforce," MCHS Principal Keith Stacey said Friday in conversation with American government teacher Daniel Batey as they are assisting the Marshall County Tribune organize a political debate.

In consultation with the educators, the Tribune has set 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 18 for the political debate. A 6 p.m. time had been contemplated, but the Tennessee Titans face off against Jacksonville on a Monday Night Football telecast starting at 7 p.m. when the debate should end.

The debates will include former Marshall County Commission Chairman Billy Spivey, a Republican, and former Spring Hill Alderman Ted Roop, an Independent now of Lynnville, who are challenging state Rep. Eddie Bass (D-Prospect). That debate will be the first of the evening.

The second debate will be between Columbia City Councilman Debbie Matthews, a Democrat, who is challenging state Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro).

No admission will be charged for the public debate in the MCHS Lecture Hall. It has 150 seats.

Admission will be on a first-come first-serve basis.

Americans' constitutional right to bear arms has been a recurring topic of debate and discussion during the state races in recent months. As a result, the candidates will be asked questions on that topic as well as gun control.

It's a worthwhile subject, Stacey said, "because it is an issue, but it's not so much an issue here as it is elsewhere."

The principal could not recall a time when a gun had been taken from a student, staffer or visitor at MCHS, although it's been a concern at schools, partly because hunting is such a popular sport in South Central Tennessee.

"We do realize that the potential for such thing exists and we have had to deal with rumors, but they've proved to be unfounded," he said. "We've got a sign out front."

State law prohibits weapons on public school campuses, Stacey said, adding that, while parents have asked him questions "at the car line" when school opens and closes, the school hadn't been "locked down" recently.

City Police Chief Chuck Forbis said Tuesday that last week "We were advised by the sheriff's office that they'd heard of the rumors and requested increased patrol especially during opening and closing of school."

Police "never received any" calls about information that School Resource Officer Billy Ostermann attributed to a mobile phone issue, Forbis said.

As for questions for the debate, Stacey and Batey noted that the NBC News program Education Nation had been part of the school's curriculum in recent weeks as the subject of instruction, funding and related issues have been of concern nationally.

Oct. 18 won't be the first time MCHS students question politicians.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker "gave a very specific" answer more than a year ago when he visited the school and spoke with students in Batey's class, the American government teacher said.