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Texas school principals indicted for electioneering

Denton Independent School District (ISD) principals Jesus and Lindsay Lujan have been indicted because of emails sent by both using the district’s email system in an alleged electioneering strategy.

The Lujans have been indicted by the State of Texas in the Denton County Criminal Court for the unlawful use of an internal mail system for political advertising. This charge is a class A misdemeanor under Texas’s election code.

Jesus Lujan is the principal of Borman Elementary School, and Lindsay Lujan is the principal of Alexander Elementary School as well as Denton ISD’s director of special programs.

On February 5, 2024, mass emails were sent out by the Lujans encouraging staff to vote, and including lists of candidates who “support public schools.”

Included in Lindsay’s email is a quote from Diboll ISD Superintendent Brian Bowman that reads, “If Texas educators do not come together & vote on the candidate that will support public schools, we are in trouble. We cannot wait. Billions of $$ sitting there holding us hostage, for vouchers. Districts adopting deficit budge[t]s across the state while politics are played.”

Jesus’s email stated, “Voting in Republican primaries is especially important because the votes cast in primaries inform issues that the party will prioritize. Since Texas tends to always elect a Republican, we want to inform the party through our primary votes which issues we care about the most and how we feel about them. Thus, vote for candidates who support public education and school funding in the Republican primaries, no matter what your party affiliation is, Republican or democrat.”

“[C]onsider thinking from a ‘purple’ mindset in future elections, voting for the candidate that will support public education and funding in the future, despite their party affiliation.”

These emails led to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton suing Denton ISD for illegal electioneering on February 22, 2024.

The suit sought civil injunctive relief to obtain a court order that would prevent Denton ISD from engaging in the alleged illegal efforts to sway the upcoming primary election.

On March 4, 2024, Paxton secured his injunction against Denton ISD.

This indictment is not without any precedent. In 2018, Paxton issued an attorney general opinion related to the “authority of a school district to spend public funds to promote voting among students and employees within the school district.”

The opinion states that the state Education Code “prohibits a board of trustees of a school district from using public funds to work for a particular measure or candidate.” Furthermore, Paxton wrote that it is a “criminal offense for an officer or employee of a school district to knowingly spend or authorize the spending of public funds for political advertising.”

Paxton’s opinion adds that providing transportation to polling locations would likely violate the Texas Constitution.

The Texas Ethics Commission explains, “No matter how enthusiastic you are about an election, it is important to remember that the Texas Election Code prohibits the use of political subdivision resources to produce or distribute political advertising in connection with an election.”

Jesus Lujan’s arraignment hearing will be on May 13, 2024 in Denton County Criminal Court 4. Lindsay Lujan’s arraignment hearing will be on May 13, 2024 in Denton County Criminal Court 3.

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