Lewisville ISD sent a written response to the Texas Office of the Attorney General on Feb. 19 after receiving a letter from them last week accusing the district of unlawfully electioneering. Assistant Attorney General Cleve Doty sent letters on behalf of Attorney General Ken Paxton to three school districts including Lewisville, accusing them of using district resources to advocate for a candidate, political party, or ballot measure in violation of state law.
Jeff Crownover, Lewisville ISD’s general counsel, used the letter to request a meeting to discuss the matter further, and expressed disappointment in the way that the Attorney General’s office chose to communicate about the concerns.
“To my knowledge, your office did not attempt to reach out to any Board member or administrator in LISD to express these concerns or obtain the District’s response to the allegations,” Crownover wrote. “Your letter was based on your observation with no feedback from LISD, and the District asserts that it would have been extremely helpful for your office to have at least spoken with the District before jumping to the conclusions you reached in your letter.”
In his letter, Crownover addressed a tweet that Lewisville ISD posted on February 6, and had removed less than 24 hours later. In the tweet, the district wrote “We are asking for support from our state Legislature. We’re not getting it. It’s time for change. #TXTeacherVoice.” Crownover said the district had been made aware by a local elected official that the tweet may have been interpreted in a way the district did not intend, so they had deleted it.
“As such, from the District’s perspective, there is no need to discuss this particular tweet further,” Crownover wrote.
The AG’s office also had problems with LISD Superintendent Kevin Rogers’ video urging staff members and the public to vote and use their “teacher voice”. In his response, Crownover said the attorney general’s office had paraphrased comments made by Rogers in the video to make them have a meaning other than the words that Rogers used.
Crownover denied that Rogers had told anyone to vote for an incumbent or challenger, or that he had mentioned any political party or primary that someone should vote in. Citing the relevant section of the Texas Election Code, Section 251.001(16), Crownover denied the district violated any laws, and says there is no reason for the district to remove the video.
Using other sections from the Texas Election Code and Texas Education Code, Crownover refuted that any of the actions the district took violated prohibitions against political advertising or electioneering.
The letter requests that the attorney general’s office make representatives available to discuss the allegations with the district.
In a response dated Feb. 21, Doty responded back from the AG’s office thanking the district for its letter and addressing the tweet. “We appreciate that the district recognized that the Tweet of February 6, 2018 was inappropriate and removed it accordingly,” Doty wrote. “We trust that in like manner, the district is surveying all of its social media accounts and removing other communications that run afoul of the law.”
Doty also advised that the AG’s office would be willing to visit with the district about the allegations, but that the district must first provide some records that the AG’s office had requested on the day they sent the original letter.
“With those records in hand, we will all be able to better assess the lawfulness of the district’s activities and communications surrounding the elections season.”
With 10 business days to respond to the request, Doty said the district’s records were due no later than Feb. 28.
Neither Lewisville ISD nor the Attorney General’s office would immediately provide information about what documents or records the AG requested from the district. A spokesperson for the AG did not clarify whether they thought the records being requested contain something the public had not seen. The Lewisville Texan Journal’s request that the AG name which “certain candidates” they allege Lewisville ISD supported was not answered Friday.
The Lewisville Texan Journal has submitted open records requests for more information, and will provide updates as we learn more.
(Photo Illustration – The Lewisville Texan Journal)