UPDATED- June 1, 2023: WUSA9
identified 7 x 24 Exchange, DC Chapter, a nonprofit representing the data center industry, as the source of the flyers. A QTS spokesperson said his company was not involved.
As per the Prince William County School Board member representing the Gainesville District Facebook message, posted May 25, 2023 (Prince William County Schools)
Free school meals have historically been available to children from economically disadvantaged households and significantly rely on federal funding from the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (“FNS”) and funding from the Virginia General Assembly for the Community Eligibility Program (“CEP”) funding.
Taxpayer-funded school lunches are not the vehicle for political debates or advocacy on controversial public policy issues, and targeting the families of free school lunch recipients for such political purposes would be a shameful breach of the public trust. There may be federal laws implicated in these actions that prevent the use of federal funds for political purposes.
The flyers sent by QTS data centers without PWCS or SPARK approval to rally support for expansion of data centers in Prince William County was improper, unethical, and requires a full and complete investigation of all responsible parties who allowed this completely improper political message to be sent to low-income families using their children as the messengers.
I asked the division to look into this incident. I am pleased that the Superintendent and staff acted quickly to begin the inquiry. I have since learned that PWCS did not know anything about the flyer and QTS did not get authorization to put our logo on those flyers. It was done without permission and against school board policies. I do believe QTS needs to answer about what financial or in-kind consideration was offered by QTS to gain access to the supplemental food distribution network to distribute their self-serving political flyers into schools. To the extent allowed by law, I would like to see all findings made public to restore our community’s confidence in our ability to protect our children from this kind of abusive conduct.
Our children cannot become the political messengers on any controversial public issue, and the schools cannot become “pay-to-play” political advocates on any issue. QTS appears to have violated the basic principle that our schools and our children are neutral on any public controversy. Equally important, we have a duty to protect children from being exploited by any outside parties who seek to promote some political objective.
It is wholly inappropriate that any individual or organization thought it acceptable to use our schools as a proxy battleground to sway the hearts and minds of citizens on a political issue that is as controversial as data centers. It’s simply unethical to use food distribution to food-insecure families to advance one’s political message.
We are left with two important objectives:
(1) how do we stop any further distribution of these political flyers appearing to have school division support and block any future activities like this; and (2) how do we hold all participants accountable for this egregious exploitation of students and their families to promote their own self-serving political agendas.
The integrity of our schools depends on a thorough investigation.
Jennifer Wall represents the Gainesville District where the Prince William Digital Gateway is proposed. She is the sole member of the board to have the backing of the Republican Party.
Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson also responded to the literature.
On June 1, QTS provided a statement regarding the flyers, which it provided to WUSA9 and reiterated for Bristow Beat.
"QTS Data Centers had no involvement with the Prince William County food bank event," said QTS spokesperson Nick Desarno.