SF School District puts out ‘advocacy’ against Labor Day start date, possible violation of state election laws

This is the document (fact sheet) that the district is dispersing, (DOC: Combined Student Version with Calendar) notice who the author is and what time it was authored. Deeann is the district’s marketing/communications person.

Sioux Falls Fact Sheet

This is questionable in so many ways;

1) Advocate education being conducted by a government entity against its citizens

a) The schools and school administration is legally to remain neutral during the public debate

b) It is questionable if the Superintendent can even legally weigh in on this issue as a 24 hour staff employee

c) School Board members would be able to discuss this or be part of the debate outside of their official meetings

d) They cannot take part in the debate during school board meetings or during legally called school functions

e) School District employees during working hours campaigning for or against an initiative or referendum is unconstitutional and illegal under South Dakota state law

I. Teachers

II. Staff

III. Superintendent

IV. School Board members during official meetings

2) The likely use of publicly owned resources to print this document

a) A receipt showing payment for the printing would be required to prove otherwise (it will show the use of government resources to pay for anti-citizen campaigning)

b) What time was the printing picked up or the delivery to printer (shows use of government time to campaign)

3) There is time expense used during work hours to construct this document

4) There is time used to distribute the document.

Like I have said in the past, both sides have good arguments, but that discussion and debate shouldn’t cost tax payers money. The school district needs to knock off their campaign, at least during business hours.


#1 Concerned Citizen on 03.09.15 at 11:01 am

What statute is that?

#2 hornguy on 03.09.15 at 12:10 pm

It’s perfectly legal for the district to disseminate information on an issue that impacts the district. Please reference that portion of the document that constitutes the type of vote for, vote against express advocacy that would actually be considered campaigning.

If you can’t, you’re fundamentally misrepresenting what the district is doing – which frankly, I think you’re already aware of considering you put quotation marks around advocacy in the title. When people do stuff you don’t like, you’re awfully quick to use words like “possible” and “might” and “may be,” which is generally code for “I don’t want to do the research or contact a lawyer to determine if what I’m saying is actually true so I’ll just frame it as an accusation.”

You know who else does that shit all the time? Fox News. Stop acting like Fox News, dude.

#3 l3wis on 03.09.15 at 12:18 pm

Issue Advocacy vs. Express Advocacy
ï‚· Express advocacy includes any communication which either:
(1) In context has no other reasonable meaning than to urge the election or defeat of one or more clearly identified candidates, public office holders, or the placement of a ballot question on the ballot or the adoption or defeat of any ballot question by use of explicit words of advocacy of election or defeat. The following words convey a message of express advocacy: vote, re-elect, support, cast your ballot for, reject, and defeat, or
(2) If taken as a whole and with limited reference to external events, such as the proximity to the election, may only be interpreted by a reasonable person as containing advocacy of the election or defeat of one or more clearly identified candidates, public office holders, or the placement of a ballot question on the ballot or the adoption or defeat of any ballot question because:
a. The electoral portion of the communication is unmistakable, unambiguous, and suggestive of only one meaning; and
b. Reasonable minds could not differ as to whether it encourages actions to elect or defeat one or more clearly identified candidates, public office holders, or the placement of a ballot question on the ballot or the adoption or defeat of any ballot question or encourages some other kind of action;SDCL § 12-27-1(9).

#4 Karma on 03.09.15 at 3:55 pm

It definitely only encourages one side. Last time I checked, school district employees are paid by tax payers and school board members are elected and compensated by taxpayers. This is a very THIN line they are walking if not illegal as stated above.

As a side note – the actions of what has taken place at Roosevelt HS is embarrassing – to the point an instructor at another high school felt the need to clarify the misrepresentation of AP facts that is presented at RHS by it’s instructors and administration to students on a DAILY basis. If that motivation is coming from the current IPC administration – shame on them. Your job is represent ALL students – not the maybe 10% that are in AP classes.

#5 hornguy on 03.09.15 at 3:58 pm

Your problem would be 2(b). All that document does is outline facts. There isn’t a sentence in that document that constitutes a bonafide example of express advocacy, and your argument would never pass a reasonableness test because your position, by default, must argue that my literal reading of the what is contained in the document is unreasonable.

#6 l3wis on 03.09.15 at 4:25 pm

Horndog – the problem is they only presented ‘facts’ of one side, their side, that is advocacy for their position.

I could care less which side wins, I just want both sides to to play fair, and we know that really isn’t how Homan operates.

#7 hornguy on 03.10.15 at 8:49 pm

I’m aware that the facts are one-sided. But legally, it doesn’t matter so long as they’re facts and the document doesn’t expressly encourage those who read it to engage in a clear action.

Wisconsin went through this a handful of years ago – it shifted policy at the state level to a post-Labor Day start but allowed for local opt-out. It hasn’t really changed much. A lot of school districts opt out. Kids just start school later and go to school later – usually early September to mid-June. But Wisconsin schools never started as early as SD schools either. Most never started earlier than the week before Labor Day to begin with.

I think the most valid argument made pertains to the scheduling of AP exams, which is usually early-mid May. Push start dates back and those kids will legitimately lose instruction days prior to the test.

#8 l3wis on 03.11.15 at 9:49 am

The AP argument is weak, always has been. What, can’t teachers give a little extra homework each week to make up the lost time? Do kids not study at night and on the weekends now?

#9 l3wis on 03.11.15 at 9:56 am

Seems Pennington County understands the law;