Political Activity on WCPSS Property
August 19, 2022
As election day approaches, WCPSS staff, parents, and community members may have questions about what types of political activities are allowed on WCPSS property.
In general, WCPSS employees may engage in political activity, such as through posting political signs in their own yards or volunteering on behalf of a campaign or in support of an issue, on their own time and with their own resources.
WCPSS encourages its employees and community to participate in our political process in order to ensure their voices are heard and interests reflected in local, state, and federal laws and policies.
This FAQ is only designed to address political activity on WCPSS property and provides answers to frequently asked questions regarding Board policies and state laws around this topic.
Are political candidates and others allowed to distribute or otherwise make political campaign materials available on WCPSS property?
No. Under Board Policy 5210 (Distribution and Display of Non-School Material), political campaign materials may not be distributed to students or employees or made available on WCPSS property during the school day or at school events. This applies to all types of political campaigns, including school board campaigns, and all types of political campaign materials, including signs, posters, flyers/brochures, stickers, and buttons. This would include posting campaign signs on WCPSS property, and also includes distributing materials through employee mailboxes and email. There is an exception on election day only for WCPSS campuses used as polling places (see Question 6).
Are political candidates allowed to campaign on WCPSS property so long as they do not distribute or otherwise make political campaign materials available?
No. The WCPSS maintains general control and authority over access to its property, including school and administrative buildings and grounds. School system property is not a public forum, and the public does not have an unrestricted right to enter on WCPSS property at all times. The WCPSS Board of Education maintains several policies related to access to and conduct on WCPSS property, including Policy 5020 (Visitors to Schools), Policy 5021 (Prohibited Conduct on School Property), Policy 5030 (Community Use of Facilities), and Policy 5210 (Distribution and Display of Non-School Material).
Are employees allowed to distribute or otherwise make political campaign materials available on WCPSS property?
Generally, no. Board Policy 5210 also applies to employee requests to distribute non-school materials. However, teachers may use political literature or campaign materials for instructional purposes if relevant to the curriculum and lesson plan, as long as they attempt to use a variety of materials that represent balanced and diverse viewpoints and do not use their position to promote a particular party, candidate, or position on a specific issue.
May political campaign signs be placed in the public right of way alongside a public road adjacent to school system property?
Yes. Political campaign signs may be placed in the public right of way alongside a public road. The posting of political signs along state-maintained roads is subject to the rules contained in G.S. § 136-32, including that they cannot be placed until thirty days before the beginning of early voting and must be removed ten days after election day. The statute also includes restrictions on the size and placement of the signs. The same rules apply to signs along municipal streets unless the municipality has adopted its own ordinance. Board Policy 5210 restricts school officials from removing lawfully placed political campaign signs. However, school officials may request that the Department of Transportation remove signs that are not in compliance with G.S. § 136-32. In addition, under the statute, signs are considered “abandoned” and may be removed without penalty starting on the 31st day following the election.
May political campaign materials be distributed at WCPSS campuses used as polling places on election day?
Yes, subject to rules established by statute and the local board of elections. At most polling sites, the county board of elections is required to set up a designated area for election-related activity, including handing out of leaflets and display of campaign signs. The board of elections will also designate a “buffer zone” of 25-50 feet around the entrance to the polling place where this activity is not allowed. See G.S. § 163-166.4. Any questions or concerns about campaign activity at the polling place on election day can be directed to the precinct officials designated by the local board of elections.
May WCPSS resources be used to support or oppose a political candidate or otherwise engage in political activity?
No. Board Policy 3225/4312/7320 and state law (G.S. 115C-46.1) prohibit the use of school system resources (including WCPSS technology and networks) to endorse or oppose any referendum, election, or the selection of any particular candidate for public office.
May political groups submit requests to use school facilities?
Yes. All requests to use school facilities, including requests from political groups, are governed by Board Policy 5030, Community Use of Facilities. Under Board policy, priority in use of school facilities is always given to school-sponsored groups and activities. Outside groups must complete a written facility rental application and will be subject to fees as set forth in the policy. Requests for rental of school facilities by political candidates or groups are subject to the same rules and fees under Policy 5030 as any other nonprofit group, regardless of viewpoint or a candidate’s relationship to the school.
Any request to advertise or post fliers or signs in conjunction with facility rental by a political group will be subject to the rules regarding political advertising outlined in Board Policy 5210, as well as general guidelines governing advertising in Board Policy 5030, Regulation 5030-R&P, and other applicable Board policies. Policy 5210, for example, generally prohibits the distribution of paper or electronic political campaign materials to students and employees on school system property during the school day and at school events.
May political parties submit requests to use school facilities for precinct meetings or county and district conventions?
Yes. Under N.C.G.S. 115C-527, boards of education are required by state law to permit the use of school buildings without charge, except custodial and utility fees, by political parties specifically for the purpose of annual or biennial precinct meetings and county and district conventions, as long as the meetings take place when school is not in session and otherwise do not interfere with normal school activities. Any such use is subject to reasonable Board rules and regulations. In addition, under Policy 5030, political parties may submit requests to use school facilities for purposes other than precinct meetings and conventions.
May political groups or parties advertise or post fliers or signs in conjunction with a rental of school facilities?
It depends. Any request to advertise or post fliers or signs in conjunction with facility rental by a political group will be subject to the rules regarding political materials outlined in Board Policy 5210, as well as general requirements governing advertising in Board Policy 5030, Regulation 5030-R&P, and other applicable Board policies. Policy 5210, for example, generally prohibits political campaign materials from being distributed to students and employees or made available on WCPSS property during the school day and at school events.
May other groups (e.g., PTA) submit requests to use school facilities to host political events?
Yes, subject to the same rules and fees set forth in Policy 5030 and Regulation 5030-R&P.