What Happened to Attorney General Ken Paxton’s “Electioneering” Lawsuits Against 7 School Districts? 

In the weeks leading up to the March 5 primary elections, Attorney General Ken Paxton took the unusual step of filing lawsuits against seven school districts (Denton, Aledo, Denison, Castleberry, Hutto, Huffman, and Frisco ISDs) accusing them of unlawful “electioneering.” Under state law, school districts and other governmental entities are prohibited from using public resources to advocate for or against a specific candidate, party, or measure.  

These lawsuits are widely considered to be an aggressive tactic motivated by the desire to suppress the voice of the public education community in the March primary elections out of fear that there could be repercussions for the state’s failure to adequately fund public education in the 88th legislative session. Paxton’s political maneuvering threatens to have a chilling effect on administrators, trustees, educators, and school employees, discouraging them from fulfilling their obligation to promote civic engagement and share factual information regarding elections that could have a significant impact on our public schools. 

As of today, three school districts have taken steps toward resolving their lawsuits. The Office of the Attorney General has announced that it ordered a writ of injunction against Denton ISD and Castleberry ISD after reaching an agreement with those school districts to resolve the lawsuits against them. 

The situation is more complicated in Frisco ISD. On Feb. 29, a state judge issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the school district from using public resources to publish any additional statement like the activities that triggered the state’s lawsuit. The Frisco ISD Board of Trustees then voted on March 7 to open negotiations with the state to resolve the lawsuit. On March 14, however, the AG’s office filed a motion for contempt against Frisco ISD for allegedly failing to abide by the terms of the temporary restraining order by using an official account to engage in a similar act of “electioneering” in the hours after the restraining order was issued. 

If these pending lawsuits are not resolved by the local school districts reaching an agreement with the state, they will go to trial. Paxton’s handling of these situations is extraordinary because allegations of “electioneering” against school districts typically arise within the context of local bond elections and the state usually contacts school districts directly to resolve the issue before resorting to the more drastic step of filing a lawsuit. 

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