Kennewick School District 17: Alleged Violation of RCW 42.17A.555 for misuse of public facilities for the purpose of the promotion or opposition to a levy/bond (EY23, Feb23)




Kennewick School District 17


John Trumbo


Dr. Traci Pierce, Superintendent of Kennewick School District 17 (Kennewick SD), completed a Statement of Understanding (SOU) and paid a $600 civil penalty in accordance with WAC 390-37-143 (Brief Enforcement Penalty Schedule), acknowledging a violation of RCW 42.17A.555 by using, or authorizing the use of, the public agency facilities of the Kennewick SD to promote a ballot proposition in the 2023 election. Specific activity addressed in the SOU included:

  1. the development and distribution of promotional content, including messaging developed by Kennewick SD staff, containing language that was not simply fact based but rather implied support for the proposed Educational Programs and Operations Levy (EP&O Levy). Many of the messages included staged photos or video of Kennewick SD teachers, School Resource Officers, and students; and
  2. frequent distribution of the content over multiple communication channels, including the school district’s website, social media platforms, television and radio ads, Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce “e-blasts,” flyers, “back-pack mail,” community-held information sessions, banners, and school reader-boards. The frequency and extent with which Kennewick SD communicated about the levy was greater than it normally communicated with the public about other official business.

While the use of social media, digital ads and storytelling are widely used to communicate with audiences, they can also be used to persuade audiences to take a particular action. The Kennewick SD should exercise caution when using such tools to convey information regarding a ballot proposition to ensure that its communications are factual, fair, objective, and free of statements of support, emotional appeals, opinions, and other promotional or persuasive content. 

PDC staff is reminding Kennewick SD officials about the importance of adhering to all of the Guidelines for School Districts in Election Campaigns which state that, in no case, will the PDC view a marketing effort related to an election as normal and regular conduct. The school district is further reminded not to use school district resources to produce and distribute promotional content and avoid statements that speculate about the possible secondary or tertiary impacts of a ballot proposition.

PDC staff expects that, in the future, the Kennewick SD will not use, or authorize the use of, school district facilities to promote a ballot proposition in accordance with PDC laws and rules.


Resolved through Statement of Understanding

Date Opened

February 23, 2023

Areas of Law

RCW 42.17A.555


Total penalties: $600

Balance Due: $0

Kennewick School District 17

$600 (Statement of Understanding)
$600 on 05/31/2023 (PAID - SOU)

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