USE OF SCHOOL PROPERTY FOR FURNISHING INFORMATIONAL MATERIAL TO THE PUBLIC.
A school board is without statutory power to authorize printing by a school print shop of informational material concerning the school program.
The circulation of informational material by paid employees during hours of employment is not illegal. It is an administrative matter which should be determined by the school board.
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June 30, 1950
Honorable Hugh H. Evans
Spokane 11, Washington Cite as: AGO 49-51 No. 292
Dear Mr. Evans:
You have asked our opinion on the following questions:
Can the school board in a first class school district authorize the printing by the school print shop of informational material concerning school bond or levy elections, such material to be prepared by the school administration as a part of its work in informing the public concerning the school program relating to expenditures of school funds or use of school property?
If the answer to this question is "No", does it thereby follow that it is illegal for a paid employee of the school district to disseminate, during hours of employment, information by word of mouth, by letter, or by material printed at the expense of private contributors?
Lastly, could the latter activity be carried on by paid employees during off-duty hours?
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
The conclusions reached may be summarized as follows:
A school board has no authority to direct the use of school property to other than school purposes unless specifically prescribed by statute.
The circulation of informational material by paid employees during hours of employment is not illegal, but is an administrative matter to be handled by the school board.
An examination of the statutes pertaining to school districts and school directors reveals that there is no express statutory authorization for the printing by a school print shop of informational material concerning school programs for distribution to the public.
The reported cases deal primarily with the use of school buildings and school grounds for other than school purposes. According to one line of decisions taking the more liberal view, school authorities may grant the use of school buildings for other than school purposes. The other line of decisions restricts the use of school property entirely to school purposes on the ground that money raised by taxation for one purpose cannot be used indirectly for another.
We have been unable to find any case decisive of your question and must, therefore, be governed by the statutes prescribing the powers and duties of those charged with the care of school property. Section 1, chapter 179, Laws of 1941, as amended by section 1, chapter 52, Laws of 1943 (Rem. Rev. Stat. 4776 (now Rem. Supp. 1943, § 4776)), prescribes the powers and duties of school directors.
Subdivision 10 of this section provides as follows:
"To authorize the school room to be used for summer or night schools, or for public, literary, scientific, religious, political, mechanical and agricultural meetings, under such regulations as the board of directors may adopt."
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
Under the foregoing subdivision, authority is granted permitting the use of school buildings for other than school purposes but it is restricted to the uses mentioned therein.
On May 12, 1936, this office had occasion to consider whether or not the Washington Horse Racing Commission had authority to contract advertising in the form of posters and folders portraying racing in the State of Washington, such expenditure to be made from Commission funds. We held that the Horse Racing Act prescribing the powers and duties of the Commission did not confer such authority specifically or impliedly and that the Commission, therefore, could not expend Commission funds for such advertising. Your problem being somewhat analogous to the situation there presented, we adhere to the conclusion reached therein and the answer to your first question must be in the negative.
With respect to your second question, we do not find that it would be illegal for a paid employee to disseminate, during hours of employment, information by word of mouth, letter, or material printed at the expense of private contributors. It is our opinion that it is within the administrative duties of the school board to determine what the policy of the board should be with respect to such activities on the part of employees.
Accordingly, you are advised that it is our opinion that a school board has no statutory power, express or implied, to authorize the printing in a school print shop of informational material concerning school board and levy elections, expenditures of school funds or the use of school property not specifically designated by statute; that dissemination or distribution of such material by paid employees during hours of employment is not illegal. The problem is an administrative one which should be handled by the school board.
Very truly yours,
BERNARD A. JOHNSON
Assistant Attorney General