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Campaign Dos and Don'ts

The Association of California School Administrators is the largest umbrella organization for school leaders in the United States, serving more than 17,000 California educators.

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EDUCATE, DON'T ADVOCATE Generally, the governing board of a school district is empowered to provide voters relevant facts and to aid them in reaching an informed decision when voting on a political issue. A school district may not expend funds or resources to promote for one side or the other on a political position. However, the line between education and advocacy is often murky, and often the questions that arise are highly fact specific. This guide will help district employees to properly navigate political campaign issues safely and effectively. Protecting Free Speech – Campaigning On Public School Grounds Free speech, including the right to advocate, peacefully demonstrate and campaign, is one of our nation's core founding principles of democracy. However, public agencies like school districts must remain neutral and the free speech rights of public employees and public officials are sometimes limited by rules and regulations. The basic principle supporting these limitations is that public resources, including public facilities, may not be used to advocate for one side or the other in the political process. Laws and policies are in place to help ensure that free speech does not: • Compromise individual rights to peaceful working conditions. Essentially, the rules of the road are that you must avoid creating a situation where people feel threatened, bullied or coerced into agreeing with a point of view. • Create a conflict of interest. The regulations are in place to ensure that self-interest or official position does not unduly influence the public discourse on a matter. • Cause any expenditure of public agency resources to advocate for or against any side in an election. Education Code sections 7050 through 7058 provide the rules of campaigning and political activity of employees. DOs and DON'Ts WHAT EMPLOYEES CAN DO • Prepare studies and information regarding the needs of schools and the programs and activities provided by the school district. • Provide a public forum for discussion that is equally available to all sides in a campaign. • Distribute information for voters that is fact-based and does not advocate. • Stress the importance of voting; encourage people to study the topic(s) and cast their votes, without advocating how to vote. • Explain to district employees that employee time constitutes a public agency resource, and that school districts are prohibited from expending school district resources on political matters. WHAT EMPLOYEES CANNOT DO • Use school district resources, funds or equipment to create advertisements or promotional material, such as bumper stickers, signs, buttons. • Act in their official capacity to support or oppose a political issue. ( Very limited exceptions apply, as noted on next page.) • Instruct or allow school district employees to campaign on behalf of a political issue during a paid working day. • Distribute campaign literature using school resources, such as email lists, or other facilities. CAMPAIGN DOs AND DON'Ts PRACTICAL TIPS FROM FAGEN FRIEDMAN & FULFROST AND THE CALIFORNIA CITY SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENTS (CCSS) THIS GUIDE IS A SUMMARY ONLY AND NOT LEGAL ADVICE. WE RECOMMEND THAT YOU CONSULT WITH LEGAL COUNSEL TO DETERMINE HOW THIS MAY APPLY TO YOUR SPECIFIC FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES. ©2016 Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost LLP. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be copied, sold or used for any commercial advantage or private gain, nor any derivative work prepared therefrom, without the express prior written permission of Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost LLP through its Managing Partner. The Managing Partner of Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost LLP hereby grants permission to any client of Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost LLP to whom Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost LLP provides a copy, to use such a copy intact and solely for the internal purposes of such client.

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