The municipal election will be held on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. The following guidelines are designed to assist school administrators, current trustees and candidates during the months leading up to the municipal elections.
Role of current trustees
Current 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 or attend a regular school council meeting, 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 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 schools are not permitted to allow visits of any kind by candidates for municipal office. Questions can be directed to Mairghread Knought, Information Officer and Communications Officer at extension 5010.
It is appropriate for current trustees, who are also candidates, to visit schools to participate in events and activities as they would have prior to the beginning of the municipal election campaigns, however it is not appropriate for those persons to campaign.
In middle and secondary schools, the election may be an ideal time to help students learn more about municipal government. The Near North board allows all-candidates meetings and other learning activities that are part of the classroom program.
Distribution of material by candidates
The Near North Board administrative guideline: "Advertising and Distribution in Schools by Outside Organizations" does not allow any political information to be distributed via schools. For this reason, no campaign material may be distributed to students, parents or staff 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 candidate. This restriction includes current trustees who are also candidates in the municipal election. Until the election, the school should not distribute any information by or about trustees who are also candidates.
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.
Using Board email by candidates
The use of Board email by candidates (including current trustees) to distribute campaign information is not appropriate, as outlined in the board’s administrative guideline: “Acceptable Use.” Although it is not explicitly outlined, under Section 2.0: Availability of Access, it states “Access to the Near North District School Board’s electronic communications system, including the internet, shall be made available to employees, trustees, and students for instructional, administrative and professional development purposes.”
Using Board email by a candidate to distribute campaign information by email could be considered a personal advantage given that a member of the public interested in running would not have access to Board email.
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.
School councils are agents of the school and the Near North District School 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 2017-18 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 Near North District School 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 Near North board is public, except for confidential student records or personnel issues, and is therefore provided upon request. As you are aware, a list of all the students at your school or in a grade or class is not public information. If you are asked for information that you do not have, refer the request to Mairghread Knought, Information and Communications Officer at extension 5010.
Advice for staff regarding campaigning for candidates
Obviously, it is not appropriate for any Near North board staff member to campaign for or endorse a specific trustee 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.