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GOP candidate and legal group seek to trigger investigation into Denton ISD administrators

 Denton ISD's Dennis E. Stephens Central Services Building.
Denton ISD's Dennis E. Stephens Central Services Building.

Jace Yarbrough, an attorney and a Republican candidate for Texas Senate District 30, filed an affidavit to the Denton County district attorney to trigger a criminal investigation of two Denton ISD administrators accused of violating the Texas Election Code.

Yarbrough said in a social media post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he filed the affidavit with the Liberty Justice Center, a nonprofit litigation firm based in Chicago.

The affidavits followed a lawsuit seeking an injunction filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton against Denton ISD after emails surfaced from Jesús and Lindsay Luján, the principals at Borman and Alexander elementary schools, respectively. Both sent emails to the entire staff at their campuses, urging employees to register to vote and then cast a ballot in the Republican primary specifically to support candidates who support public education.

Both administrators offered 30 minutes of “coverage” to employees who needed to leave their campuses to vote on one of two dates. Both emails mentioned vouchers, a hot-button issue in the last legislative session that many educators in the state say would defund public schools by diverting school funds to private, religious and home-based schooling. School voucher proposals failed to make it into law last year, even with strong support from Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and a high number of Republican lawmakers.

Paxton said in his injunction that the Denton ISD administrators’ emails constituted electioneering because they were sent during work hours on the school district’s email system. He was seeking a civil injunction to keep school districts from trying to influence elections illegally.

The Liberty Justice Center sent the Denton County District Attorney’s Office a demand letter on behalf of registered voters in the county.

“Denton County school officials illegally used public resources to further a politically motivated electioneering scheme,” attorney Dean McGee said in a news release. “In an attempt to sway the election, they abused their positions to pressure employees into voting against candidates who support school choice. This is a blatant violation of state law, and we are proud to join registered voters throughout Denton County in demanding that the District Attorney promptly investigate this matter.”

The center said the affidavits require the district attorney to investigate.

“The days of conservatives sitting idly by while left-wing activists run amok in our institutions and elections are over. We’re fighting back,” Yarbrough said in a post on X announcing his affidavit.

Yarbrough didn’t respond to an interview request made through his campaign website on Thursday.

Julie Zwahr, Denton ISD’s chief of communications, said the district had not heard from the district attorney’s office, “but would most certainly cooperate in any investigation.”

Zwahr said that Jesús and Lindsay Luján, who are married, both continue to serve in their roles for the district.

“Everyone mentioned in the lawsuit is continuing to focus on their roles and positions as we continue constructive dialogue with the Texas Attorney General’s Office. No one is on leave,” she said.

The Denton school board adopted policies in 2018 and 2021 regarding elections and campaign ethics. The district trains staff on the policies annually.

‘It is our expectation that these policies be followed,” Zwahr said.

Copyright 2024 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Lucinda Breeding-Gonzales | Denton Record-Chronicle