Thursday, October 17, 2002

Political group told to stay away

School says it can't hand out fliers at games

By Cindi Andrews
and Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DEERFIELD TWP. - Supporters of a measure to expand the number of Deerfield trustees are accusing the Kings Local School Board of taking a political stand for refusing to let them hand out fliers outside of football games.

"I have been passing out campaign literature at Kings football games since at least 1994 along with many others in our community," Dorette Landis said Wednesday in a letter to school board President Roger Jones. "To forbid me to do so now, I believe, is a violation of my First Amendment rights."

Superintendent David Query, however, said he was following a district policy - in place since 1998 - that states the superintendent must approve "notices, advertisements or written matter of any nature" before it is passed out.

Mr. Query said an unknown caller asking to hand out fliers at the Oct. 4 football game was the first request he'd had since the policy was written. People might have passed out literature in the past, he said, but without the district's approval.

"I told them no, and they said fine," he said. "They came to the game and they still distributed the literature on the premises. ... It's a violation of our policy."

Ms. Landis is a member of Friends of Five, a group campaigning to make Deerfield the first township in Ohio to have five trustees instead of three. The current trustees and a group called Three is Enough oppose the measure.

Ms. Landis, wife of former school board member Del Landis - who was on the board when the district's policy was approved - also contended that Kings has campaigned for its own levies on school grounds in the past.

Mr. Query said the schools have provided only educational materials about levies at school events.

"We are very careful to remain neutral on the issue," he said. "We don't tell them how to vote."

He didn't know if the materials were available at games.

"It's a family and community event for the kids and the school," he said. "When people bring issues into the setting, it detracts from that."

Friday's home game against Loveland is expected to draw up to 8,000 people.

Other districts - including Lebanon - have policies similar to Kings' that require the superintendent's approval, according to the Ohio School Boards Association.

Neighboring Mason City Schools, which also has some territory in Deerfield, "typically discourages" campaign fliers and signs because they create litter, spokeswoman Shelly Benesh Hausman said, although Deerfield Trustee Barbara Wilkens Reed said she and other candidates had literature and signs outside Mason games in 2001.

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