Arizona Revised Statutes section 15-511 (A.R.S. §15-511-H) prohibits school districts from using school resources to influence the outcome of an election. Litchfield Elementary School District employees have the right to be involved in politics as private citizens on their own personal time; however, while they are on duty, they cannot encourage people to vote one way or another, or use district resources to do so. It is imperative that campaigning and advocacy efforts on behalf of specific candidates, ballot measures, bonds and overrides by school board members and public school employees stay within the bounds of the law.
SCHOOL DISTRICTS CAN:
- Inform parents and community members how to register to vote, remind them of election days, and encourage them to vote, as long as there is no attempt to say how to vote.
- Allow outside groups, including parent organizations, to use school buildings to hold meetings in support of a campaign, providing those groups lease the facilities in the manner any other group would be allowed to lease.
SCHOOL DISTRICTS CANNOT:
- Expend funds for membership in an organization that attempts to influence the outcome of an election.
- Post campaign signs or distribute campaign literature in District buildings.
INDIVIDUAL BOARD MEMBERS OR EMPLOYEES CAN:
Individual Board members or school employees not on school time may exercise their free speech rights and get involved in campaigns, including the following:
- As private citizens, during non-duty time off campus, using private resources (computers, phones, paper, etc.) advocate, circulate petitions, express your opinions, distribute literature, wear buttons, use bumper stickers (even when parked for the day at work), make speeches, make contributions, etc. Employees should make it clear you're not representing or acting on behalf of the District when you do any of these things.
- Receive literature in a school mailbox, e-mail, etc. which attempts to influence elections - just don't re-distribute or forward it. Don't forward a political "rant".
- If at an extracurricular activity (e.g. basketball game) campaign only if not on duty/assisting with supervision, etc.
- Conduct non-partisan activity designed to encourage individuals to register to vote and make voter registration forms available on school district property if you regularly do so throughout the year.
- Respond to questions about ballot measures so long as the responses provide factual information in a neutral manner and do not present a clear and unmistakable pleas for or against measures.
- May prepare and distribute informational reports required by statue in connection with a bond election or a budget override (including publicity pamphlet), and investigate fiscal impact of ballot measure on the district.
- Host non-partisan forum for the purpose of educating voters on an issue, and allow the renting or lease of buildings and facilities if all groups have the same rights and conditions attached to their use.
Best practice - avoid electioneering at District or school events.
INDIVIDUAL BOARD MEMBERS OR EMPLOYEES CANNOT:
Individual Board members or school employees cannot:
- Display campaign signs, banners sticker or other advocacy for or against any party, candidate or ballot item in classrooms, on school walls, fences, etc. Sole exception: if displayed during an appropriate lesson as part of the approved curriculum a teacher is hired to teach, and campaign items are presented from all candidates or sides of an issue.
- Wear political buttons, T-shirts, etc., designed to influence an election while on duty at work, supervising activities, etc., whether in school or at school-sponsored extracurricular events on or off campus.
- Permit use (whether paid or free) of school premises for meetings by one side only in an election: users must have equal access, subject to facility use policies and fee schedules.
- Use the authority of your position to influence the vote or political activity of a subordinate.
- Use school mailboxes, mail distribution services, e-mail, telephones, etc. to distribute literature or communicate to influence the outcome of elections, including forwarding emails you receive (even to your own personal email), or using school phones as phone banks.
- Give students literature advocating for a candidate or ballot measure, or proposed legislation.
- Circulate petitions or fundraise for candidates or ballot measures, except during non-duty hours outside instructional settings, best practice-don't do this at school ever.
- Solicit contributions to be used in support of or opposition to a candidate, recall, ballot measure or political party. This does not prohibit individual employees from voluntarily exercising their right to solicit contributions on non-duty time, outside the classroom or other instructional settings.