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VOL. 42 | NO. 41 | Friday, October 12, 2018

Students given shirts promoting accused Republican lawmaker

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NASHVILLE (AP) — School officials in a Tennessee county gave high school students T-shirts promoting a Republican state lawmaker accused of sexual misconduct during a recent field trip to the state Capitol.

The Tennessean reports Rep. David Byrd from Waynesboro hosted a "Senior Day on the Hill" for Wayne County and Frank Hughes high school seniors on Monday. Byrd has hosted the event for several years, but this time it raised eyebrows after three women last March accused Byrd of sexual misconduct when he was their high school basketball coach decades ago.

Before the event, a voice message went out to families telling students to pick up shirts promoting Byrd and change before boarding school buses.

"Seniors should report straight to the cafeteria for roll call and you will receive your senior 19 T-shirts from Rep. Byrd," the message said. "Once you receive your shirt, please go to the bathroom and change into it, and then safely place the shirt you had on somewhere in the school."

Byrd says students were not required to wear the T-shirts. He added that he's handed out T-shirts for the past four years he's hosted the school field trip, but this was the first year there's been a problem.

The shirts distributed this year included a logo on the front that said "Rep. Davis Byrd" and "19" on the back to represent the senior class' year of 2019.

"We've never made it mandatory," Byrd said in an interview with the newspaper. "I don't know if everyone had one on or not, but it's never been a requirement."

School directors did not return requests for comment. Byrd's nephew, Ryan Franks, is the principal of Wayne County High School.

In a media report March 27, two women alleged the then-28-year-old Byrd inappropriately touched them and a third said Byrd tried to. Instead of heeding calls to resign from House and Senate leaders, Byrd is seeking re-election for the District 71 House seat. He faces Democratic opponent Frankie Floied in the Nov. 6 general election.

Byrd has not outright denied the allegations, but in statements has said he's truly sorry if he hurt or emotionally upset any of his students and said he has done nothing "wrong or inappropriate" during his time in the Tennessee Statehouse.

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Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com

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