California Educator

September 09

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poli t ic al act iv i ty in the workplace during non-duty time — but st ipulates that teachers are not guaranteed the right to use school mail- boxes to urge the support or defeat of a candidate for public office. The California Supreme Court ruled against the San Leandro Teachers Association (SLTA) in June, upholding the district’s right to bar litera- ture from school mailboxes containing recommendations for or against candidates for public office. The ruling does not apply to literature that merely “en- courages” members to be- come involved in upcoming elections and informs them how to do so. Also, unions may use school mailboxes to distribute literature urging members to engage in politi- cal action besides casting a ballot, such as contacting legislators about pending legislation. For example, a newsletter or flier that says “Write to your congressman about No Child Left Behind reauthorizat ion” would be permitted because it is not related to any specific elec- tion campaign. The decision stems from an incident in 2004 when SLTA members put newslet- ters in member mai lboxes urging them to support as- soci ation-backed school board candidates in an up- coming election. The San Leandro Unified School Dis- trict told the union that state law barred use of district Court ruling sets guidelines for school mailboxes A recent court ruling reaffirms the rights of teachers to engage in mai lboxes for such usage. SLTA filed a complaint to the Public Employment Re- lations Board, which was dismissed, so SLTA sued in Alameda County Superior Court, where a judge ruled for the union in 2006. This decision was overturned by the Court of Appeals before going to the s tate’s high court. The Supreme Court rul- ing says that districts are not “compelled” to exclude can- didate endorsements from school mailboxes. However, if a district chooses to ex- clude such endorsements from school mailboxes, the court believes that it consti- tutes a “reasonable regula- tion” based on Education Code section 7054 (a), which prohibits the use of a school district’s “funds, services, supplies, or equipment” for urging the support or defeat of political candidates. While the ruling upholds the right of a district to ex- clude poli t ic al endor s e- ments from mai lboxes, it did not rule that districts must do so. Under the ruling, the dis- trict may refuse unions the right to place political candi- date campaign literature in school mailboxes — as long as the district does not allow any other group or individual to leave such candidate en- dorsement literature in school mailboxes. If, however, a dis- trict allows anyone to distrib- ute a candidate endorsement in school mailboxes, it must allow everyone else the same right. sherry posnick-Goodwin september 2009 | 23 What the ruling means to CTA chapters If a school district allows anyone to distribute literature through the school mailboxes that contains political endorsements, it must allow the union to use mailboxes for that purpose, too. If one side is allowed to and your association is not, contact the CTA Legal Department. Union literature containing political endorsements may still be left on tables, chairs or countertops in faculty lounges. Union literature about ballot propositions or initiatives may be entitled to greater protection. So if your school district refuses to allow your union to distribute such union literature in the school mailboxes, contact the CTA Legal Department for assistance. (The court reserved judgment on whether school districts may refuse to allow unions to distribute literature in school mailboxes endorsing ballot propositions rather than candidates, noting that another provision of the Education Code provides greater protection for such activity.) *This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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