January 13, 2014

Guidelines for schools about the municipal election 2014

The municipal election will be held on Monday, Oct. 27, 2014. Candidates are able to register and submit their nomination forms between Jan. 2 and Sept. 12, 2014, and begin electioneering now. 

The following guidelines are designed to assist school administrators during the months leading up to the municipal elections.
 
School visit by candidates
 
Requests by candidates to visit a school are not considered appropriate during an election campaign. This restriction includes informal visits to classrooms and meetings with the school council or with school administrators. If a candidate contacts you asking to visit your school, explain that the Peel District School Board election guidelines do not permit visits of any kind by candidates for municipal office. 
 
Role of current trustees
 
The current members of the board of trustees are still serving out the end of their term of office and continue to fulfill their usual roles. It is appropriate for schools to involve their local trustee in events and activities at the school in a way they would have prior to the beginning of the municipal election campaigns. 
 
For example, if it is the previous practice of a school to have the local trustee hand out student awards at the monthly assembly, attend a regular School Council meeting or attend an open house at the school, this practice can continue during the election campaign. 
 
However, schools cannot send out any campaign material on behalf of the current trustee, if he or she is also a candidate in the municipal election.
 
School events—e.g. open houses, Education Week events, graduation/commencement
 
Open houses and other school-related events are intended for parents and families of students at the school. They are not open to the general public, and certainly not for candidates to use as a way to campaign. If the candidate is a parent and at the school as
such, that is different. They must, however, not campaign during their visit or hand out materials, etc. 
 
Candidates who have traditionally attended school-related events (e.g. graduation) at a specific school can attend the event this year. They should be introduced, but cannot speak. If the candidate has provided certificates for graduates in the past, they can be included with report cards. 
 
All-candidate meetings
 
In middle and secondary schools, the election may be an ideal time to help students learn more about municipal government. The Peel board allows all-candidates meetings and other learning activities that are part of the classroom program. 
 
Distribution of material by candidates
 
The Peel board operating procedure SS2: "Distribution of Material" does not allow any political information to be distributed via schools. For this reason, no campaign material may be distributed to students or parents via schools. It also includes material distributed indirectly on behalf of a candidate—for example, the school council cannot choose to distribute information about a particular candidate. 
 
This restriction includes current trustees who are also candidates in the municipal election. Schools should not distribute any information by or about trustees who are also candidates until after the election.
 
However, schools do not have control over what happens off school property. If a candidate stands off school property and distributes campaign material to parents and students, there is no action the school can or should take. 
 
On the other hand, it is appropriate to distribute information about the election in general—for example, information from the municipality about the date of the election. 
 
School Councils
 
School Councils are agents of the school and the Peel board, and are bound by the same guidelines as the school. It is not appropriate for the School Council as a group to endorse a specific trustee candidate or to campaign on behalf of a specific candidate. The council could, however, host an all-candidates meeting to assist parents in learning more about all the candidates.
 
The council shall not distribute information on behalf of, or about, a specific candidate. If it is the normal practice of the School Council to meet regularly with the local
trustee(s), those meetings can continue as they usually would. Otherwise, individual candidates are not permitted to meet with the council during the campaign period.
 
These guidelines apply to the School Council as a group.  The individual parent members of a School Council, including the chair of the council, are not limited in any way in terms of their ability to campaign for specific candidates. They support a candidate, however, as an individual, not as a representative of the council.
 
A School Council chair or member who is also a candidate for election as trustee may continue in their elected role for the remainder of the 2013-14 school year. However, they must not use their role to promote their campaign while they are serving in the role of School Council member. They are not allowed to distribute campaign material on school property or to discuss their campaign during council meetings. 
 
School Council meetings are public. Even though candidates for municipal office are not allowed to meet directly with the council, a candidate may choose to attend a council meeting as a member of the public. They may ask a question during public question period, as any other member of the public could, but are not allowed to use this time to deliver campaign messages or to give out campaign material at the meeting.
 
Requests for information
 
The Peel board is committed to public accountability and service when responding to any information request. If a candidate contacts the school office for information about your school, provide that information as promptly as possible—as you would if the request came from a parent or other member of your community. There is no need to determine why the information is being requested. 
 
Generally, all information about schools and the Peel board is public, except for confidential student records or personnel issues, and is therefore provided upon request. A list of all the students at your school or in a particular grade or class is not public information. If you are asked for information that you do not have, refer the individual to the board’s website at www.peelschools.org or ask that they contact Communications & Community Relations Support Services at 905-890-1010/1-800-668-1146 ext. 2809.
 
Advice regarding campaigning for candidates
 
It is not appropriate for any Peel board staff member to campaign for or endorse a specific candidate while in the workplace. While it is not an issue for most board or school staff to campaign outside of work hours for trustee candidates, it is not recommended that school administrators or other senior staff campaign on behalf of a trustee candidate.
 
Social media—personal accounts
 
If you follow/friend a candidate on your personal social media accounts (e.g. Twitter and Facebook), you do not need to unfollow him or her. The board is not discouraging staff from following or engaging with candidates on social media during their personal time. 
 
Although it is not an issue for most board or school staff to communicate with and campaign outside of work hours for trustee candidates on social media, it is not recommended that school administrators or other senior staff campaign on behalf of a trustee candidate. School administrators and senior staff may wish to limit retweets, likes and favourites from their personal social media accounts as these can often be perceived as endorsements.
 
Social media—school accounts
 
If you follow/friend a candidate on your school’s social media accounts (e.g. Twitter and Facebook), you do not need to unfollow him or her. However, from now until after the election, you should not follow any other candidates unless you have just opened a school account. If you open an account during this time, if you follow one candidate, you should follow them all until after the election. 
 
From now until the election, do not retweet, favourite or like candidates’ social media posts from your school’s accounts. These can be perceived as endorsements and must be avoided. 
 
Learn more
 
For information about the election, including a complete list of candidates—as they become available, visit the following websites:
 
Brampton: http://www.brampton.ca/en/City-Hall/Election/Pages/Welcome.aspx
Caledon: http://www.caledon.ca/en/townhall/elections.asp 
Mississauga: http://www2.mississauga.ca/vote2014/  

Questions about the guidelines? 
 
If you have questions or if situations arise that are not covered by these guidelines, please contact one of the following individuals:
 
• Brian Woodland, Director of Communications and Strategic Partnerships, 905-890-1010, ext. 2812
• Carla Pereira, Acting Manager of Communications, 905-890-1010, ext. 2814
• Beth Veale, School Support Officer, 905-890-1010, ext. 2625

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