Did GOP tour stop violate school ethics code?

(UPDATED, 8:05 p.m., Oct. 31, with details from 2010 event.)

A Friday blog post from Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review raises an interesting question: Did a Republican Party bus tour stop at a Gooding charter school violate the state’s ethics code?

The bus tour stopped on Oct. 24 at Gooding’s North Valley Academy Charter School. The visit occurred during the school day, from 1:30 to 2 p.m., Russell reports.

Russell cites a 2011 memo from state superintendent Tom Luna, which forbids the use of school facilities for political functions. “If substantiated, each is a violation of the Code of Ethics and is punishable by a letter of reprimand, the placing of conditions on the educator’s certificate or the suspension or revocation of the educator’s certificate. … Those whose certificates are suspended or revoked can no longer be employed by an Idaho public school.”

Luna spokesman Brady Moore would not tell Russell whether the state’s Professional Standards Commission is looking into the event. School chairwoman Deby Infanger told Russell that she believes the event was a visit from Gov. Butch Otter, and not a political function.

Idaho Republican Party Executive Director David Johnston told the Associated Press that he wasn’t aware the academy was a public school, and said Otter’s campaign arranged the stop.

The bus tour is a Republican Party election year staple, with candidates making stops in communities across the state over several days. Otter, of course, is running for a third term in Tuesday’s elections.
There is some history of GOP bus tour stops running afoul of school regulations, as was noted Friday evening by Spokesman-Review blogger D.F. Oliveria. A 2010 GOP bus stop at Coeur d’Alene’s Lake City High School was cut short before it started, when an administrator said the school property was off-limits for politicking.

This being election season, the reactions to the Gooding bus stop story were quick — and pointed.

“Yea, sure is a terrible thing that school kids wear uniforms and sang the national anthem and played instruments to welcome a campaign bus in Gooding,” said Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, on his Facebook page. “Can’t have any of that pride in America in our politically incorrect schools, can we?”

Said Robin Nettinga, a lobbyist for the Idaho Education Assocation: “Come on, Rep. Hartgen. This isn’t about patriotism or taking pride in America. This is about the Code of Ethics for the Professional Teacher that every single one of us must confirm that we’ve read and understand before we apply/reapply for certification. If this is OK, then does that mean you would be OK with teachers who support your opponent putting her yard signs in the front of the school?”


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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