15-511. Use of school district or charter school resources or employees to influence elections; prohibition; civil penalty; definitions
A. A person acting on behalf of a school district or a person who aids another person acting on behalf of a school district shall not spend or use school district or charter school resources, including the use or expenditure of monies, accounts, credit, facilities, vehicles, postage, telecommunications, computer hardware and software, web pages, personnel, equipment, materials, buildings or any other thing of value of the school district or charter school, for the purpose of influencing the outcomes of elections. Notwithstanding this section, a school district may distribute informational pamphlets on a proposed budget override election as provided in section 15-481, subsections B and C or informational pamphlets on a proposed bond election as provided in section 15-491, subsection D if those informational pamphlets present factual information in a neutral manner, except for those arguments presented as prescribed in section 15-481, subsection B, paragraph 9. Nothing in this section precludes a school district from reporting on official actions of the governing board.
B. The prohibition on the use of public resources to influence the outcome of bond, budget override and other tax-related elections includes the use of school district-focused promotional expenditures that occur after an election is called and through election day. This prohibition does not include routine school district communications.
C. This section does not prohibit the use of school district or charter school resources, including facilities and equipment, for government-sponsored forums or debates if the government sponsor remains impartial and the events are purely informational and provide an equal opportunity to all viewpoints. The rental and use of a public facility by a private person or entity that may lawfully attempt to influence the outcome of an election is permitted if it does not occur at the same time and place as a government-sponsored forum or debate.
D. An employee of a school district or charter school who is acting as an agent of or working in an official capacity for the school district or charter school may not give pupils written materials to influence the outcome of an election or to advocate support for or opposition to pending or proposed legislation.
E. Employees of a school district or charter school may not use the authority of their positions to influence the vote or political activities of any subordinate employee.
F. Notwithstanding section 15-342, paragraph 8, a school district shall not spend monies for membership in an association that attempts to influence the outcome of an election.
G. This section does not deny the civil and political liberties of any person as guaranteed by the United States and Arizona Constitutions.
H. The attorney general shall publish and distribute to school districts and charter schools a detailed guideline regarding activities prohibited under this section. The attorney general may distribute these guidelines through a website or electronically.
I. The attorney general or the county attorney for the county in which an alleged violation of this section occurred may initiate a suit in the superior court in the county in which the school district or charter school is located for the purpose of complying with this section.
J. For each violation of this section, the court may impose a civil penalty not to exceed five thousand dollars plus any amount of misused funds subtracted from the school district budget against a person who knowingly violates or a person who knowingly aids another person in violating this section. The person determined to be out of compliance with this section shall be responsible for the payment of all penalties and misused funds. School district funds or insurance payments shall not be used to pay these penalties or misused funds. All misused funds collected pursuant to this section shall be returned to the school district or charter school whose funds were misused.
K. An attorney acting on behalf of a public school may request a legal opinion of the county attorney or attorney general as to whether a proposed use of school district resources would violate this section.
L. All penalties collected by the court for a suit initiated in superior court by the attorney general shall be paid to the office of the attorney general for the use and reimbursement of costs of prosecution pursuant to this section. All penalties collected by the court for a suit initiated in superior court by a county attorney shall be paid to the county treasurer of the county in which the court is held for the use and reimbursement of costs of prosecution pursuant to this section.
M. For the purposes of this section:
1. "Government-sponsored forum or debate" means any event, or part of an event or meeting, in which the government is an official sponsor, which is open to the public or to invited members of the public, and whose purpose is to inform the public about an issue or proposition that is before the voters.
2. "Influencing the outcomes of elections" means supporting or opposing a candidate for nomination or election to public office or the recall of a public officer or supporting or opposing a ballot measure, question or proposition, including any bond, budget or override election and supporting or opposing the circulation of a petition for the recall of a public officer or a petition for a ballot measure, question or proposition in any manner that is not impartial or neutral.
3. "Misused funds" means school district monies or resources used unlawfully pursuant to this section.
4. "Routine school district communications" means messages or advertisements that are germane to the functions of the school district and that maintain the frequency, scope and distribution consistent with past practices or are necessary for public safety.