The union that represents most teachers in Maryland called on the Worcester County school system to block Donald Trump's campaign from using a high school gym to hold a rally Wednesday evening.
"Donald Trump and his divisive, fear-mongering rhetoric have no place in the halls of Maryland's public schools," Maryland State Education Association president Betty Weller said in a statement. "Trump's eagerness to bully minorities would be unacceptable if it came from any of our students."
Liberal group Progressive Maryland issued the same call and launched an online petition that had been signed more than 500 times by Tuesday afternoon.
Trump's rally is being held at Stephen Decatur high school in Berlin at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz have already held events in Maryland, as the protracted battle for the Republican nomination continues.
Carrie N. Sterrs, a spokeswoman for the school system, said the Trump campaign approached the schools about using the gym and is paying a fee of almost $5,000. The school system is aware of the calls to cancel the event, but Sterrs said the rally is still scheduled to go ahead as planned.
The school's involvement shouldn't be seen as an endorsement of Trump, Sterrs said.
"This is just a facility rental," she said. "We rent out our facilities to organizations when requested."
Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, the director of Common Cause Maryland, said it's generally not an ethical or legal problem for political candidates to use schools for campaign events if the school isn't officially endorsing them.
Opponents of Trump plan to hold protests outside the event. Baltimore activist group the People's Power Assembly said its members plan to carpool over to the Eastern Shore.
"We will be there to make sure there is a strong voice of opposition," said Kira-Lynae Pindell, a spokeswoman for the group.
Other planned protests have popped up on Facebook. Gabrielle Franks, from Hebron, said her first thought on hearing that Trump was coming to Maryland was that she should organize a demonstration. She invited contacts in the Salisbury music scene and word of the protest spread from there, Franks said.
"We've all been very clear in the event page this is a peaceful protest," she said.