The Bryant Schools have distributed campaign literature on behalf of candidates by way of placing flyers in teacher mail boxes. I asked that we, the anti-annexation campaign, be allowed to distribute flyers regarding the Bryant annexations, and was refused. After doing some research and not finding any written policy that seemed to justify this refusal, I then wrote a letter, and received a written response from Superintendent Abernathy.
Section 811 prohibits political activity. Leaving flyers at the school for distribution to teachers could perhaps be construed as political activity, but why was that acceptable for two candidates for whom the school distributed literature?
I cannot see how Section 840 applies because the request did not include distribution of literature to students. Perhaps because the superintendent is empowered to decide what is appropriate for distribution to students, that implies that he must also decide what is appropriate for distribution to teachers? If that was the intent of the school board, it would not have been difficult to include an extra sentence to spell it out.
I am not mad at anyone although I was disappointed by the decision. I am not trying to imply that the school district is playing favorites, or that there is any collusion between the Bryant School District and the City of Bryant. You can read the letters and decide for yourself if you think the right decision was made.
October 27, 2008
Bryant School District Superintendent
I live in the Bryant School District. I asked if an informational flyer about the Bryant proposed annexations could be put in each teacher's school mailbox. Mr. McGohan informed me that this would violate school board policy. Could you supply me with a copy of the policy that prohibits political literature from being distributed to teachers?
I know that Ann Clemmer's campaign literature has been distributed in this way. What is different about our literature?
Mr. McGohan told me that the district remains neutral on these issues; however, he had concerns about the content of the flyer. He said Bryant should be able to put out an ad too and I told him we had no problem with that. I would think that the Bryant Schools would want the teachers to be informed of both sides of this issue. The people who are against the annexation are running a grass roots campaign, and do not have the resources to mount an expensive campaign. We are trying to educate voters that it is likely that Bryant will need to increase taxes to extend services to these large rural areas.
It does not make sense to me that anyone affiliated with the Bryant Schools would want to censor our ability to have a flyer placed in boxes when we are a part of the district regardless of city boundaries. It seems this should be a right of district members regardless of whether you agree with the content or not.
I look forward to receiving a copy of the guidelines.
October 27, 2008
Dear Mr. Young
I am in receipt of your letter of this date and am writing to respond to your requests. You have requested a copy of the policies dealing with the distribution of political materials and are specifically requesting that your materials concerning the annexation of surrounding areas into the City of Bryant be distributed to employees of the district.
There are two Bryant School district policies that deal with this subject:
811 POLITICAL ACTIVITY
No individual may engage in political activity, including distributing, posting, or displaying political materials or making contact with students or staff members for the purpose of discussing political issues, on the property of the Bryant School district during the school day.840 DISTRIBUTION AND AVAILABILITY OF MATERIALS AND LITERATURE
The superintendent or his/her designee may approve the use of material which supports the instructional program of the District.Policy 811 was adopted to prevent political candidates from campaigning on school property during school hours. Policy 840 was adopted to control the distribution of a wide range of materials including political materials. I have highlighted and wish to call to your attention that the distribution of materials is at the discretion of the Superintendent. As you pointed out, we did permit the distribution of campaign materials for Scott Smith and Ann Clemmer to be sent to teachers. However, I have determined that your materials will not be distributed, but I will assure you that we will not be distributing materials that are in favor of the proposed annexation, either.
Materials such as advertising literature of any organization, notice of activities for students sponsored by community organizations, or other material which has not been fully approved by the superintendent or his/her designee may not be distributed to the children or to homes through the children.
Materials which are designed to furnish information about the school district and its program or any worthwhile cause for the public good may be distributed at the discretion of the superintendent.
Since the public school must remain neutral concerning matters of particular religious and political beliefs, the Bryant School Board affirms that the following types of materials shall not be distributed to students in the Bryant School District: 1. Materials advocating a particular religion, denomination, or beliefs thereof; 2. Materials advocating the views of a particular political party or candidate for any elective office. However, the superintendent or his/her designee may allow such materials to be made available to students if the materials are found to meet the following criteria:
Materials made available to students under this policy shall be on display for no more than three student days as determined by the superintendent or his/her designee. The superintendent of his/her designee may establish a window of opportunity throughout the school year for display of materials.
- Age appropriate
- Legally appropriate for publications
- Contributes to the education of students
- No cost incurred by the school district
- School staff members do not participate in making the materials available to students
- Availability of the materials is not announced through school announcements or bulletins
- Individuals or groups providing the materials are not allowed to speak with students nor to monitor students response of materials while students have access