Seniors at Wayne County High School went on a senior trip to the capitol all wearing the same shirts featuring the campaign logo for a lawmaker accused of sexually touching or propositioning three of his former high school students.
The seniors traveled to the state capital Monday in t-shirts that featured the campaign logo for state representative David Byrd, R-Waynesboro.
Byrd was the subject of a News4 I-Team investigation that found three women claiming that Byrd either sexually touched or propositioned them when they were students and he was their basketball coach.
In a recorded conversation with one of the women, Byrd repeatedly apologized without explanation, saying he often prayed for forgiveness.
“It's one of those things I've really beaten myself up and I don't know if you believe that or not,” Byrd can be heard saying in the recording. “But I do. All the time. There hasn't been a Sunday that’s gone by when I’m doing my communion and everything and I’m asking forgiveness for sins, my sins, that’s one of the things that I do.”
Byrd then released a statement saying since he’s been in office, he’s done nothing wrong.
Byrd is now running for re-election.
In a message sent to seniors from the school, the students were told that before the trip, they could pick up their senior t-shirts from Representative Byrd.
The News4 I-Team found a photograph of Rep. Byrd wearing the same logo at a campaign event.
We showed our video to News4 political analyst Kent Syler.
“Someone just made a couple of bad decisions. You've got the candidate logo on the front. I would call that advertising,” Syler said. “It's just bad judgement though to put students on an official field trip wearing something that could construed as campaign propaganda.”
A recent attorney general opinion on the little Hatch Act reinforced the fact that teachers are prohibited from performing political campaign duties or functions during the hours of the day when the teacher is required to be performing school duties.
A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office said any question if the little Hatch Act was violated would be addressed by a local school board.
Marlon Davis, director of Wayne County Schools, said no ethical lines were crossed.
"There wasn't a campaign speech or anything said to the students - vote for Rep Byrd, or anything that went along with those shirts. They were just provided as a gift to the seniors."
“Is this a political statement on this shirt? I'm sure the Byrd campaign will argue that it doesn't, the opposition will argue that it does, and a third party will probably end up deciding it,” Syler said.
Rep. Byrd did not return our call for comment.