Judge slaps Yukon schools’ political advocacy for S.Q. 744

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 29-Oct-2010

Judge Patricia Parrish ruled today that Yukon Superintendent Bill Denton’s request for teachers to distribute materials supporting State Question 744 to be “advocacy,” and that political advocacy in is not allowed by law. While not issuing an injunction or restraining order, Judge Parrish admonished the defendants not to “engage in advocacy within public schools.”

Shawnnessy Black, plaintiff attorney stated, “While the relief was not granted, we are not disappointed with the ruling of the judge in this case. We are hopeful that the unethical electioneering styles conducted by superintendents across the state will cease as a result of this ruling.”

Anthony J. Ferate, co-counsel said, “It was fun to watch the defendants do their song and dance, saying that none of them were responsible.  Sandy Garrett’s office directly claimed they ‘had no control of the superintendents across the state.’ It really makes me wonder what the Superintendent’s job truly is.”

Black and Ferate sought the judicial order on behalf of Julia Seay, a Yukon resident. Seay had asked for action after learning the schools’ intended to distribute pro-744 material through taxpayer-supported classrooms.

A press release sent Friday evening (October 29) to CapitolBeatOK said: “If anyone has additional information about possible electioneering in public schools, both attorneys would appreciate correspondence via email for the express purpose of ensuring appropriate law enforcement agencies, including District Attorneys, are notified promptly.”

The attorneys’ request for an injunction stated, in part: “Petitioner, Julia Seay, believes that the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the various proponents of State Question 744 have conspired to engage in electioneering and distribute flyers that are in clear support of Oklahoma State Question 744, such material is intended to be distributed to the parents of students attending Oklahoma Public Schools.”

The Seay filing continued: “Petitioner, Julia Seay, has knowledge that the Superintendent of Public Instruction requested that flyers in support of Oklahoma State Question 744 be distributed on Monday, November 1st, 2010, to impressionable school age children.”

Black said in her earlier statement: “Distribution of political material through the classroom is a direct violation of state law and citizens and supporters of State Question 744 will stop at nothing to get what they want – and what they want is to use our children as campaign volunteers for their tax increases.”

Ferate had said in the original release: “We are fortunate that Julia Seay was brave enough to come forward with this information so we could act quickly, otherwise the classrooms of Oklahoma would be used as de facto campaign distribution centers.”

Exhibits in the case included correspondence from Bill Denton, Superintendent of Yukon Public Schools as well as a flyer that looks almost identical to the mailing pieces sent by proponents of State Question 744.