Grade-schooler protests teacher’s call to vote on mill levies

2010-04-26T22:33:00Z Grade-schooler protests teacher’s call to vote on mill leviesROB ROGERS Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
April 26, 2010 10:33 pm  • 

A student at Sandstone Elementary in the Heights has filed a complaint with the state after he said he was told on Thursday by his teacher to vote for Billings School District 2 mill levies.

“The teacher gave us some ‘vote’ stickers,” said Austin Aisenbrey, a sixth-grader at the school. “My teacher told us, ‘If your parents ask what they’re supposed to vote for tell them to vote for the mill levies.’ ”

Austin said he didn’t think it was right for his teacher to campaign for the levies in class, so, on Friday, he came to school with a t-shirt that read, “Vote against mill levies, it makes your tax rise.”

The principal asked him to turn his T-shirt inside out.

On Monday, Austin wore a t-shirt with the message printed outside and inside the shirt. He was asked to wear a sweatshirt.

“If they can campaign for it, then he can campaign against,” said Austin’s mom, Yvonne Aisenbrey.

Superintendent Jack Copps said Austin was asked to remove the shirt because there can be no campaigning for or against the levies in school. If campaigning was going on in the classroom, the district could get in trouble with the state, he said.

“If it’s happened, then that’s wrong,” he said.

Copps said it was his understanding that the teachers were using the upcoming elections to talk about the democratic process and passing out the “vote” stickers to remind parents simply to vote.

“They didn’t say anything about which way to vote,” he said.

Austin said his grandfather is Montana Public Service Commissioner Brad Molnar. When he was told to go home and tell his parents to vote, Austin said, he went and talked to his grandfather.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Austin said.

He said Molnar told him that he needed to file a complaint with the state political practices commissioner and showed him how to access the forms.

Contact Rob Rogers at rrogers@billingsgazette.com or 657-1231.

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