My district or administrator is pressuring me to donate to a selected charity.  What do I do?

The Texas Attorney General recently issued his opinion regarding Texas Education Code §22.011, which prohibits school districts from requiring or coercing employees to make charitable donations.  Texas House Representative Rob Eissler requested the Attorney General’s opinion on this matter because of confusion over the language in the statute.  Section 22.011 of the Texas Education Code states, in part:

“(a)  A school district board of trustees or school district employee may not directly or indirectly require or coerce any school district employee to:

(1)  make a contribution to a charitable organization or in response to a fund-raiser; or

(2)  attend a meeting called for the purpose of soliciting charitable contributions.

(b)  A school district board of trustees or school district employee may not directly or indirectly require or coerce any school district employee to refrain from:

(1) making a contribution to a charitable organization or in response to a fund-raiser; or

(2)  attending a meeting called for the purpose of soliciting charitable contributions.”

After reviewing the language and applicable case law, the Attorney General stated that if a purpose of a meeting is to solicit charitable contributions, even if it is not the sole purpose of the meeting, then mandating attendance at such a meeting is prohibited by Texas Education Code §22.011.  Further, under the plain language of the statute, the district may not solicit any charitable donations at a meeting where the employee’s attendance is expected, required, instructed, or forced in any manner, even if solicitation of charitable donations is not the sole purpose of the meeting.  If meeting attendance is strictly voluntary, then section 22.011 does not prohibit presentations soliciting charitable contributions. The Attorney General also determined that while a school district is not prohibited from sending out charitable solicitation materials or offering “general encouragement” to make donations, it cannot expect, require, or mandate that an employee to make, or refrain from making, a charitable donation.  The A.G. warned, however, that general encouragement could be considered coercive and, thus prohibited, depending on the facts of a particular situation. Finally, the A.G. examined whether section 22.011 allows “district personnel [to] collect contributions on behalf of a charitable campaign if doing so could identify which employees participated.”  While he stated that the statute does not address the authority of a school district to collect funds on behalf of charitable organizations, he warned that identifying employee donors could constitute requiring or coercing a donation, depending on the facts of a given situation.