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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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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS Posting Signs and Promotional Materials Q: May we post political messages to the employee bulletin board? A: "No." Brochures and tangible material may not be posted to employee bulletin boards if it advocates for or against a ballot measure or candidate. Q: May we wear buttons featuring political messages during the workday, at school events? A: "Yes" but with limits. As a matter of free speech, so long as any button or apparel does not disrupt education, public employees are allowed to wear buttons featuring political messages during the school day or at school events. However, individuals are cautioned against advocating for or against a political issue during the working school day. Practical Pointer If you know a group will be advocating/campaigning aggressively, for example the union might be promoting a state ballot measure, consider meeting with the group's leadership team to review the laws and your organization's policies. This will help avoid the appearance that the district is stifling free speech rights. Before and After School Q: May we distribute materials, which were not created using any district resources, before/after school and at school events such as back-to-school night, sports? A: Generally, "No." If a district or employee is at a school event in his or her professional capacity, he or she is likely on "district time" and therefore may not distribute political material or advocate. In that setting, only neutral, fact-based information may be provided. District administrators, including school site administrators, should be careful not to pressure school personnel into participating in any campaign effort. Endorsement, Advertising and Public Presentations Q: May district employees and board members endorse initiatives and/or candidates? A: "Yes," so long as it occurs after work, not on school grounds and does not involve any school resources. Employees and board members may NOT endorse initiatives or candidates when speaking in their official capacity. However, as private citizens, each individual is entitled to advocate freely. Despite this limitation, a Board may vote, during a properly noticed board meeting, to support or oppose a ballot measure that may affect the agency. The district resources used to prepare the resolution, place it on the agenda and time to debate it, etc., are not considered an improper expenditure of district resources. [See Choice-in-Education League et al, Plaintiffs and Respondents, v. LAUSD et al, 17 Cal. App. 4th 415 (1993)] Q: Can the board legally direct the superintendent and staff to remain silent on a matter before the voters? A: "No." The Board may not instruct school district employees on how they might act as private citizens when not on "work time." The Board may, however, set guidelines for conduct during the work day. Q: May a candidate or campaign committee purchase space in a school district publication? A: "Yes," so long as the forum is available to all sides on an equitable basis, a school district publication may be used. However, use of a publication for campaign purposes must not constitute use of district resources, and must be compensated accordingly. Further, by allowing a candidate to purchase space, the District must allow all sides of a campaign to participate, effectively opening the doors for any number of unforeseen voices. We would recommend against permitting the purchase of space in a school district publication for political reasons. Q: May members of the public speak to an election topic/candidate during the public comments section of a general board meeting? A: "Yes." The public is entitled to speak during the public comments section of a board meeting on an election topic/candidate. The Board should refrain from responding to any comments made during the public comments section of the meeting that would constitute advocacy for one side or the other. Visit us at F3law.com Find more information and resources at F3law.com/resources Contact us at Communications@f3law.com F3-016

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