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An Open Letter to Dr. Peter Sanchioni, Natick Superintendent of Schools

In which the Natick School Department is called to task for attempting to influence voters.

Dear Dr. Sanchioni,

 As the parent of a fifth grader, I regularly receive communications from the Natick School Department. Most of these I find useful and informative, as they relate directly to my daughter, her schooling, and the events that surround that schooling.

 What they do not involve, however, is the School Department effectively taking a political position on a pending ballot measure, and using its public funding and mouthpiece to advocate for its own viewpoint on that ballot measure. 

Until this morning, that is. 

Today, I received an email which linked to Natick Together for Youth, an advocacy group on the issue of Drug Free Schools.  In particular, it linked to a non-objective “information sheet” on ballot measure #3, which would legalize medical use of marijuana for individuals who meet certain medical criteria. This organization—and particularly the “information sheet” to which the email linked—have a strong position against the ballot measure.

 Allow me to be clear—my problem with the School Department’s email has nothing to do with my feelings on Ballot Measure 3, about which I have no strong feelings in one direction or another.  However, I do have very strong feelings about the School Department--a public institution entrusted with providing unbiased, objective education to the students of the town—making use of both public funds and a mailing list which should only be used for the dissemination of materials directly relevant to the schooling of these students to attempt to influence the outcome of the election. 

This is especially egregious considering that individuals in Natick vote in the public schools. As residents, we are not allowed to wear buttons supporting candidates or ballot measures into the voting booth, but we are expected to vote in an institution which itself takes positions on those measures?  This is unacceptable.

 Politics is not the purview of the School Department, and as such, an immediate retraction of the email and an apology to all Natick residents should be issued—as well as a pledge that the School Department will no longer participate in electioneering.

 Sincerely,

Ben Jackson

Natick

 

CC: Natick Board of Selectmen

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

D.C. al Fine October 03, 2012 at 07:30 PM
I evidently clicked the link after the change had been made. If the originally linked page was of the nature of explicit advocacy, then I understand the concern expressed and it was right to change the link. Issue advocacy should not be done on behalf of the interests of a public school system without a vote of the district's school committee.
Ben Jackson October 03, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Thanks, Dick - when I started the comment above, I did not yet realize the link had been changed. I should have edited my opening paragraph after reading it, and neglected to do so. Regardless, thanks for reading, and for your input.
D.C. al Fine October 03, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Thank you Ben. I would be obliged if in future conversations here or elsewhere you would use the name -- Dirk -- that I posted above and that I go by. you are not the first to misread it or to assume that it is a typo.
Ben Jackson October 03, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Yikes - I most certainly did misread. Apologies, and thanks for the correction.
Susan Manning October 11, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Ben: In the future if you want to update, you can always either email me (susan.manning@patch.com) or post a new blog linking to the old one. But thank you for the update and the blog!

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