Frisco ISD officials will work with Texas attorney general officials after the district was sued for electioneering.

Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the district for illegal electioneering Feb. 28. His office also filed a temporary restraining order against the district to stop electioneering Feb. 29.

What happened

FISD’s board members authorized administration and the district’s legal counsel to negotiate with the attorney general’s staff in response to his injunction proposal during a March 7 meeting.

District officials received an offer from the attorney general to settle the case earlier this week, and the district could not move forward with the offer until receiving board input, said Esther Kolni, general counsel for FISD. Details of the proposal could not be given as its part of an ongoing settlement, she said.

Officials will negotiate with the attorney general’s office and move with the direction the board has provided.

In case you missed it

The lawsuit names Dynette Davis, Gopal Ponangi, Rene Archambault, Marvin Lowe, Stephanie Elad, Mark Hill and John Classe for their capacity as board members. The lawsuit also names Superintendent Mike Waldrip and Megan DeWolfe, FISD’s Government Affairs chair.

The lawsuit was filed against the district in regards to three social media posts that were published on FISD’s Government Affairs Facebook page Feb. 20, 23 and 27, according to the filing.

The lawsuit filing states the department used official resources to advocate for certain policies and political measures. It states that the social media posts by the district directly violate the Texas Election Code’s prohibition against the use of “state or local funds or other resources of the district to electioneer for or against any candidate, measure or political party,” according to an attorney general Feb. 28 news release.

The social media posts have since been edited after direction by Collin County Judge Andrea Bouressa determined which parts of the post may be electioneering, Kolni said.

A determination on the posts being electioneering was not made as the hearing was an initial look into the claims of the lawsuit. A full evidentiary hearing will be held to determine if the statute was violated, Kolni said.

A closer look

The attorney general’s office filed a similar lawsuit against Denton ISD on Feb. 22 for illegal electioneering after an elementary school principal emailed staff members encouraging them to vote in the primary election. Similar actions have been taken against Castleberry and Denison ISDs.

FISD’s legal counsel has connected with districts that have received similar lawsuits, Kolni said. Districts across the state have expressed concerns of “potential overreach” from the attorney general and concerns of “broadening” what is defined as electioneering law under current statutes, she said.

“We, as a school district, have an obligation to educate,” she said. “It is our job [and] it is fundamental to our existence. We cannot let fear or intimidation prevent us from upholding the principles of this republic. We cannot let fear or intimidation prevent us from providing accurate information to the public about matters of public concern.”

The FISD school board has promoted a culture of voting and has directed the administration to encourage students, staff and community members to vote, Kolni said.

“We encourage people to make their opinions heard at the ballot box,” Kolni said. “ We don't encourage anybody to think a particular way or to vote in a particular way or for a particular person, but we do believe it is bedrock to the principles of public education that people know about their rights and know that they can express their opinions without unreasonable government interference.”