Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

PTA meeting ends with anti-medical marijuana pamphlets

ST. PETERSBURG — Parents attending a mandatory PTA meeting this month at Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School were handed a pamphlet opposing Florida's proposed constitutional amendment on medical marijuana.

"I was astounded. There was all this scary stuff saying how bad it was," said St. Petersburg resident Brock Murch, an amendment supporter whose son attends the school. "People should not be in the schools doing politics."

The pamphlet — whose distribution violated school system policy — did not specifically identify its creator, but it displayed the logos of Save Our Society from Drugs, a St. Petersburg lobbying group, and Don't Let Florida Go to Pot, an anti-amendment website created by Save Our Society and the Florida Sheriffs Association.

Representatives of those organizations did not return requests for comment, but both have taken high-profile positions against the amendment.

Among other things, the pamphlet contended that the amendment "would allow anyone of any age to use marijuana for any condition," a notion hotly contested by amendment sponsors.

How the pamphlets made their way into parents' hands is not entirely clear, but a nonprofit coalition called the NOPE Task Force played a central role, with unofficial help from two Pinellas sheriff's employees.

NOPE has worked closely with the school system and the Sheriff's Office for years to educate students and parents about drugs — primarily the abuse of prescription medication. Several NOPE officials and volunteers have lost children to prescription drug overdoses.

Thurgood Marshall principal Solomon Lowery invited NOPE Pinellas director Laurie Serra to present a program on marijuana for the May 1 parents meeting. A pediatrician talked about negative health effects. Serra gave a testimonial about her stepson's drug overdose, mentioning that his addiction problems began with pot, Murch said.

At the end, Serra urged parents to pick up a copy of the pamphlet on their way out.

PTA attendance is mandatory at fundamental schools. Before leaving, parents must prove they attended by handing in cards containing their children's names.

A woman handing out the pamphlets positioned herself in front of the table where school officials collected the cards, Murch said.

"She said, 'Make sure you get a brochure before you put your card in the box,' " Murch said. "I didn't know if she was a school employee or what."

Serra did not return calls for comment, but Karen Perry, NOPE's executive director in Palm Beach, said the organization does "not get political in our presentations. We make that pretty clear."

As of Friday afternoon, Perry said, she had not yet talked to Serra to find out where the brochures came from.

Helping Serra hand them out were an off-duty sergeant and clerk for the Pinellas Sheriff's Office wearing NOPE polo shirts, sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha said.

Serra provided the brochures, Pasha said.

Deputies have helped Serra hand out other printed material at other functions, Pasha said, and probably did not consider the pamphlet's political nature.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri opposes the amendment.

The principal, Lowery, was unaware that the brochures would be handed out, said schools spokeswoman Donna Winchester.

Letting anyone distribute political material at a school function violates policy, Winchester said. The administration will "investigate the chain of events" and will make that policy clear "to all groups that are invited to give presentations.''

Stephen Nohlgren can be reached at

PTA meeting ends with anti-medical marijuana pamphlets 05/16/14 [Last modified: Friday, May 16, 2014 11:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 24: A pilgrim reaches the Cruz de Ferro, an important milestone on the journey to Santiago


    Day 24: Foncebadon to Molinaseca: 20.3 km, 6 hours. Total for Days 1-24 = 561 km (349 miles)

  2. Sprint is reportedly seeking a merger with Charter, the nation's second-biggest cable company


    Sprint, the nation's fourth-largest wireless network, is pursuing a merger with the cable company Charter Communications, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

  3. Steve Cishek latest bullpen upgrade for Rays, who now must translate that to wins

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — The Rays made another addition to change the look of their bullpen Friday in acquiring veteran side-armer and former closer Steve Cishek from Seattle.

    Reliever Steve Cishek has a 3.15 ERA in 20 games after recovering from offseason hip surgery and a 1.86 ERA since a rocky second outing of the season.
  4. Ex-priest in Boston sex abuse scandal released from prison


    BOSTON — A convicted pedophile priest at the center of Boston's Roman Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal settled into an apartment in western Massachusetts on Friday, across the street from a children's dance studio.

    Paul Shanley, 86, has completed a 12-year sentence for the rape of a boy in the 1980s.
  5. Russia seizes 2 U.S. properties and orders embassy to cut staff


    MOSCOW — Russia took its first steps Friday to retaliate against proposed U.S. sanctions for Moscow's suspected meddling in the 2016 election, seizing two U.S. diplomatic properties and ordering the U.S. Embassy to reduce staff by September.