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Ask The Answer Person: Was it right for the Decorah School District to rent the DHS Gym to Democrat Pete Buttigieg?

Posted: Wed, Nov 6, 2019 11:45 AM

(Jim asks, "Why was a Democratic Party candidate allowed to rent the Decorah High School gym for a political rally on Saturday night?  Isn't there supposed to be a separation between tax-supported organizations and politics?"):

The Answer Person says: "The Decorah Community School District has a written policy, 903.1 "Community Use of School Facilities."  You can read the policy yourself at the link below, but basically the policy is to permit community use "contingent upon the activity in no way interfering with the District's educational and activity program."

School district facilities have been rented to a variety of outside groups in the past, ranging from concerts to speeches to fundraisers.  Political groups have used school district facilities in the past—The Answer Person remembers a Winneshiek County Republican Party caucus at Carrie Lee School, for instance.  Carrie Lee school was used by the Republican party a number of years ago for a debate location and Decorah High School was used for a Republican caucus, also a number of years ago.  So while a presidential candidate might not have spoken at Decorah High School in recent years, there have been instances of use of school district facilities by political groups.

The separation between tax-supported organizations like the school district and political groups like either the Republicans or Democrats is that tax funds cannot be used to favor one group or the other—so long as one set of rules applies to everyone, community use of school district facilities doesn't violate any laws."