Leyden High School “You Tube” Statement to the Faculty and Staff by Dr. Nick Polyak, Superintendent


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Will Graduates Be Able to Attend a Graduation This Year ?

What does the cancelling of the May graduations at the University of Illinois at Champaign, Chicago and Springfield mean for the planned graduation ceremonies on May 19th, and 20th for the Leyden High Schools at the Rosemont Theatre, as well as  for the grammar and high schools throughout the State of Illinois  ?

The coronavirus is upending many of the hallmarks of the American grammar, high school and  university experience. This may be only the beginning of what is to come.

These dramatic alterations in the educational landscape include classroom attendance as well as with the upcoming May and June graduations the likelihood of the cancellation of graduation ceremonies especially if the classes are cancelled beyond the first week in April.

The University of Illinois has canceled May graduation at its three campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A note signed by the U. of I leadership at the three campuses, including U. of I. System President Tim Killeen, states that diplomas will be mailed. The university is considering ways to honor the 2020 class with virtual events. The turnout for commencement events, which draw between a few hundred to several thousand people, far exceed the federal guidance that calls for canceling large events for at least eight weeks, the university said.
“We know you share the goal of those restrictions – protecting yourselves and the well-being of your family, friends and the broader community, particularly the most vulnerable among us. We are proud of your sacrifice and your success, Class of 2020, and we promise we will find ways to honor your achievements,” the letter said.
Illinois has at least 160 known cases of COVID-19, but the actual number is likely much higher because of limited testing. The state reported its first death from the disease on Tuesday and revealed that 18 patients in a nursing home have contracted the virus.

With the major State Universities’ of Illinois have cancelled their May graduation ceremonies it leaves little doubt that the balance of the Illinois colleges and universities will be cancelling their graduation ceremonies as well as the high schools and grammar schools throughout the State of Illinois.

If there’s an upcoming graduate in your life, give them a hug and pray for them. To them, the cancellation of school is not a vacation. It’s wasted time they don’t get to spend with their friends the last few months before they graduate. They’re anxious, realizing they may never be able to walk the halls for the last time, do their senior walk or attend their last prom. They’re sad hearing their senior prom they’ve been waiting on all year has a chance of being canceled. They’re nervous that they may not be able to walk the stage and get the diploma they have been working hard on for 12 years. Show them support and love them during these hard times. #classof2020

If you are the parent of a 2020 grad, copy and post on your Facebook wall with their pic! Thinking of all in the Class of 2020!




Posted in Chicago, College, Corona Virus, Covid-19, East Leyden, Economic Development, Economy, Elmwood Park School District 401, Franklin Park, high school class rank, Illinois, illinois politics, Leyden, Leyden Area Special Education CoOp, Leyden High School Dostrict 212, Mannheim School District 83, Pennoyer School District 79, politics, Pritzker, Rosemont, Rosemont School District 78, Roy F. McCampbell, Schiller Park, Schiller Park School District 81, Social Media, Special Education, West Leyden | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

School Closures for Coronavirus Could Extend to the End of School Year, Some Say—-Leyden and Norwood Park School Districts Need to Consider The Inevitable and Begin the Community Conversation

For the second time this school year, starting first with the Chicago Teachers’ Union strike, Chicago families face an uncertain future as all schools close Tuesday — but this time it’s because of the coronavirus outbreak that has taken over life in the United States.
City and schools officials are making efforts to ease the burden on families in need, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot acknowledged Monday that it’s not yet clear whether school can resume at the end of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s mandated two-week closure March 31.


This is clear that the closure of the Chicago Public Schools may be longer than March 31, 2020, after Mayor Lightfoot made the following statement:

“This is an incredibly fluid situation, which is an understatement,” Lightfoot told reporters after touring the district’s coronavirus command center. “I don’t want to get ahead of myself and predict what may be happening in April because as a matter of fact it’s hard for us to predict what’s going to happen one or two days in advance.”

Is this a sign that all school districts will not return to opening their schools until later in April, May or for that matter is the school year over for this year ?  For those parents in Leyden Township this conversation needs to commence so proper planning can begin for the inevitable.

“This may not peak until the latter part of April or May, so we’ve informed the superintendents while we’ve closed schools for three weeks, the odds are that this is going to go on a lot longer, and it would not surprise me at all if schools did not open again this year,” said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, on CNN’s State of the Union.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered public schools in New York City to close until April 20, despite Mayor Bill de Blasio’s concerns over the impact of an extended closure.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance on Friday saying that in areas with “substantial community spread” of the coronavirus, closures need to last a minimum of four to eight weeks to serve as a “larger community mitigation strategy.”

The College Boards have in response to the rapidly evolving situation around the coronavirus (COVID-19), the May 2, 2020 SAT administration is canceled. Makeup exams for the March 14 administration (scheduled for March 28) are also canceled. Registered students will receive refunds.

Closing schools for eight weeks or more may have a greater impact on mitigating the spread of the novel coronavirus than two- to four-week closures, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said.

Considerations for School Closure and the Length of that Closure

Recommendations by the CDC  on school closure based on available science, reports from other countries and consultation with school health experts.

1. There is a role for school closure in response to school-based cases of COVID-19 for decontamination and contact tracing (few days of closure), in response to significant absenteeism of staff and students (short to medium length, i.e. 2-4 weeks of closure), or as part of a larger community mitigation strategy for jurisdictions with substantial community spread* (medium to long length, i.e. 4-8 weeks or more of closure).

2. Available modeling data indicate that early, short to medium closures do not impact the epi curve of COVID-19 or available health care measures (e.g., hospitalizations). There may be some impact of much longer closures (8 weeks, 20 weeks) further into community spread, but that modelling also shows that other mitigation efforts (e.g., handwashing, home isolation) have more impact on both spread of disease and health care measures. In other countries, those places who closed school (e.g., Hong Kong) have not had more success in reducing spread than those that did not (e.g., Singapore).

3. In places where school closures are necessary, the anticipated academic and economic impacts and unintended impacts on disease outcomes must be planned for and mitigated. Provision of academic support (e.g., tele-ed), alternatives for school-based meals as well as other services (e.g., behavioral and mental health services) for economically and physically vulnerable children, support for families for whom telework and paid sick leave is not available, ensuring that high risk individuals continue to be protected must all be addressed. Special consideration must be given for health care workers so that school closures do not impact their ability to work.

*Substantial community spread is defined as large scale community transmission, health care staffing significantly impacted, multiple cases within communal settings.

Shorter-term closures will likely make little difference in the spread of the disease, new CDC guidance states, even as K-12 school districts across the country began announcing school closures within the shorter time frame.

Further, short-term closures may actually have detrimental effects, negatively impacting older caregivers at home, the CDC said.
Closing schools also comes with its own setbacks, namely a potentially negative impact on academic outcomes, which the CDC also acknowledged in its updated guidelines. The Department of Education recently issued its own guidance to educators about its flexibility related to student absences and testing standards.

Closing schools also comes with its own setbacks, namely a potentially negative impact on academic outcomes, which the CDC also acknowledged in its updated guidelines. The Department of Education recently issued its own guidance to educators about its flexibility related to student absences and testing standards.
In any school closure, students could still congregate outside of school and spread the disease, the CDC acknowledged.

Leyden High Schools requested that the students clear out their lockers when they departed on Friday, March 13, 2020;   that is a clear indication that the District is preparing for the inevitable, which is that no students will be returning to the buildings to complete this academic year.

It is becoming quite clear that it is most likely, that all of our areas schools will remain closed for the balance of the academic school year and we all need to plan to manage our students for the balance of the academic year.

The sooner that the everyone honestly confronts this inevitable conclusion of the school year, the better the community of students, parents and the general public can prepare to manage this major shift in the educational environment for the balance of the school year and better plan child care.

Let’s begin that community conversation now and not delay the factual discussion.



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The Forces of Chaos Are At Work in this Era of the Coronavirus 19, Take Heed How to Manage in this Business Landscape !!! LEARN HOW TO THRIVE IN CHAOS or BE LOST !!!

The business landscape of the 21st Century is characterized by increasing complexity, disorder, intense competition, hyper speed pace of change, and above all, a 24/7 “always on” culture. This means that chaos is inevitable in such a landscape because of the confluence of all these factors.
Therefore, managers and leaders cannot but learn to manage chaos and embrace complexity if they and their organizations have to prosper and indeed, even survive. All the talk about creating flexible organizational structures and adaptable cultures is mainly to deal with the fast changing business environment where organizations and the leaders have to be agile and nimble footed to take advantage of opportunities.
Change is the Only Constant
Indeed, the fact that the only constant is change and that the only certainty is uncertainty in addition to the unpredictability of the future means that chaos becomes an integral part of every manager’s and leader’s life. Consider for instance, the fate of the various cab services and travel operators who have been hit by competition from Uber, which is the app based car rental and taxi operator.
Given that Uber marries technology with flexible employment and sharing economy characteristics, it has been able to upend the existing companies in the business. This means that the managers and leaders of traditional car companies have to learn to cope with the “beautiful chaos” that is technology driven solutions and hence, must tailor their strategies accordingly.
Indeed, the fact that most traditional cab service companies are like “Deer who have been caught blinded in the glare of the lights” means that they were simply unprepared to deal with the unpredictability of the emerging collaborative economy where Smartphone based apps have unleashed “latent and potent” forces of “creative destruction” which have altered the marketplace completely.
Even Market Leaders Tend to Fail
Now consider the same technology companies in the business of making Smartphones. A decade ago, Blackberry was the only thing that came closest to a Smartphone and indeed, it was the proto company that rolled out what can be called the initial waves of the Smartphone revolution.
Now, does anyone know what has happened to Blackberry which except for corporate users relying on it for better security and safety does not have a mass consumer base as it did a decade ago when it was the undisputed leader in the industry?
The reason why it failed is that as astute its leaders were about the marketplace, they were behind the curve when it came to recognizing the “chaos principle” of innovation, globalization, technology, and forces of entrepreneurship that characterize the modern marketplace.
Given that it is now possible for anyone anywhere to design an app and ensure that it has a mass following means that scale or the size of the business are no longer guarantees for longevity. The point that we are making is that technology and globalization together create forces that make everyone susceptible to being “Thrown under the onrush of technological change” and hence, even companies such as Uber that are now the reigning leaders in their business spaces cannot afford to remain complacent.
The Nervousness of the Leader
This “nervous” factor that the modern day business landscape unleashes means that managers and leaders no longer have the luxury of a leisurely approach to business and instead, must deal with the chaotic conditions that they encounter from the time they start their day or even when they are sleeping.
For instance, it is now routine for most people in the workforce to begin their day with the latest updates about whichever interests they have and for business leaders, it is mostly about stock updates, market movements, business trends, and latest developments in their industry.
Everything Happens at Once
It is quite possible that these leaders as they begin their day might have to deal with labor unrest in a far away country where their manufacturing facilities are located, or near home, they might have to deal with some contingency that threatens their sales targets, or even for that matter, a snowstorm or a blizzard that shuts down the city and hence, results in loss of precious time for their businesses.
Just imagine what would happen if all these events happened at once and place yourself in the shoes of a business leader and then you can realize how chaotic life can be and how demanding your career and job can be.
Indeed, if there is one advice that most business leaders these days offer to graduating students is that they must have powers of focus and concentration that would help them “filter away the noise” and “focus on what is essential and needed” and at the same time ensure that they are not swayed by the rush of chaotic trends and events which demand creative and well thought out solutions and responses.
Therefore, for anyone of you who is aspiring to work in the corporate world or are already there, this might seem obvious since no one is really away from this chaos. However, the important point to note is that it is one thing to view these events in a dispassionate manner and it is altogether another thing to be the decision maker in the “hot seat” in the midst of all this turmoil.
In conclusion, the ones who are most likely to succeed are the ones with a “firm grip on the present, a solid understanding of the past, and a vision for the future” which means that they are able to look behind, look ahead, and not fall off the present to ensure that they indeed, “thrive in chaos”.

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Leyden Area School Districts’ UpDate on March 13, 2020 For The Closing of the Schools

March 13, 2020

Dear School Community, 

After careful consideration of information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) regarding social distancing and the support of preventative measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus in our community, we are closing schools beginning Monday, March 16th with a tentative return date of April 6th.School will be in session all day today.  

Proactive school closures have been shown to be one of the most powerful interventions that we can deploy to curb the spread of a virus.

Further information will be forthcoming regarding the districts’ efforts to maintain some continuity of instruction for our students over this time.

School officials will continue to work with our local health department, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and medical community partners. We will take the necessary steps to ensure the safety, health, and well-being of everyone in our community. 

We appreciate your support during this challenging time.  We know there will be a lot of questions and we will be in communication with updates as they develop.


Rosemont 78                          Schiller Park 81                       Mannheim 83                        Franklin Park 84 

Kevin Anderson                     Kim Boryszewski                    Kim Petrasek                           David Katzin

Rhodes 84.5                              River Grove 85.5                     Berkeley 87                           Leyden HS 212

Jim Prather Jan Rashid Terri Bresnahan Nick Polyak

Posted in Chicago, Corona Virus, Covid-19, Education, Employing Disabled, Health, health risk, Illinois, illinois politics, infrastructure, LASEC, Leyden, Leyden Area Special Education CoOp, Leyden High School Dostrict 212, Mannheim School District 83, Norridge School D80, Northlake, Pennoyer School District 79, referendum, Referendums, Rosemont, Rosemont School District 78, Roy F. McCampbell, Schiller Park, Schiller Park School District 81, Social Media, Special Education, Taxation, Union Ridge SD86, vaccines, West Leyden | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leyden High School SD 212 COVID-19 UPDATE

March 12, 2020

Dear Leyden High School Community:

Currently, there have been no confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases at Leyden High School District 212.

As a precautionary measure, with the number of cases across the state and region increasing and as a result of our communications with neighboring districts, Leyden High School is taking a proactive approach to help prevent the potential spread.  

Starting tomorrow, March 13, the following are in effect through Spring Break until Monday, April 6:

  • Large gatherings are canceled.  This includes Parent-Teacher Conferences and Triton Evening Programs.
  • Visitors are not allowed inside the building.
  • Parents picking up a student from school will need to wait in the vestibule while security assists them.
  • All local and domestic trips and events are canceled for students and staff.
  • All field trips are canceled. 
  • All outside speakers are canceled. 
  • IEP and parent meetings will be conducted via phone or digitally.
  • All use of facilities from outside organizations are canceled.
  • All athletic practices and competitions are canceled.
  • All club meetings and after school events are canceled.  

We will evaluate whether or not these performances, competitions, and events can be rescheduled at a later time.  

If we do have a confirmed case we will work with the Illinois Department of Health to determine next steps.  As we receive new information, we will send it to you as soon as possible.  

These are unprecedented times.  Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work through this situation together.   

Thank you,

Leyden High School District 212

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Principal of East Leyden Correspondence on COVID-19 (Corona) Virus For Clarification

This communication is to provide you with the most up-to-date information and help avoid any misinformation regarding the COVID-19 (corona) virus.

There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Leyden and there are no suspected cases at this time. Earlier today, we learned that a Leyden employee and family members, who are students at Leyden, may have had indirect exposure to an Illinois resident, who may or may not have interacted at CineSpace in Chicago with a resident of California who has a confirmed case of COVID-19.
The actor from California, who was on set two weeks ago in Chicago, recently tested positive for COVID-19 (see article). As a proactive measure, the Leyden employee and the students were sent home while we awaited guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). The IDPH advised us that no quarantine was necessary and no further action needed to be taken by the Leyden School community, due to the time that has passed and the remote connection to that situation. The employee and the students have returned to school.
We continue to use our cleaning protocols during the school day and evenings to ensure the cleanliness of our schools. For your own personal prevention, please remember to follow the guidance of the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick with respiratory symptoms.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Thank you,
Jason Markey

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Consider Voting “No” on Any Referendum The First Time It Is On The Ballot Whether It Is For A Municipality, Fire District, Park District, School District Or Other Government Initiative

Here’s why:

Voting NO returns the question to the Elected Governing  Board for reconsideration and much needed revision. The large dollar  referendums maybe an issue in itself, but a far greater issue is how the elected governing board made its determination and how and where it could contain costs and par off the “fat” in the plan.

Will it go for the designated purpose or will it enrich a consultant and provide for wants instead of needs?
It is not easy to publicly encourage a NO vote on a public  referendum, especially if it involves fire protection, police protection, schools, health initiatives or other purposes of public safety. Undoubtedly some may label this position as anti-public safety, or  anti-school, and some will consider it unfair to the elected board members who are over worked and underpaid for what they’re supposed to accomplish.

You should recognize that every board member  has the public interest as their highest priority. However citizen awareness and a willingness of citizens or citizen groups to speak up are vital to accountable government.
I  believe that the fiscal magnitude of any project goes far beyond what is needed to accommodate the public need in many instances, or more specifically that a whole lot of wants have been added to what is really needed.
Extra scrutiny needs to be given to any of the  agreements that the elected bodies have structured with its consultants, project managers, financial consultants, attorneys, architects, etc., , which give these consulting companies far more control over public moneys   than is warranted, and a far bigger piece of the referendum dollars than justified.
I  believe that the needs and the wants of any governmental body should be segregated into separate questions on the ballot, so that voters could express preference by voting yes on the items they consider to be essential, and voting no on those things they consider unimportant.
We believe financial sustainability requires a fiscally conservative approach to meeting the future needs of any elected governmental body.
Lastly, I  believe that returning the question to the elected governing board  for reconsideration and revision, and utilizing input from many, experienced, business, engineering, construction, and educational professionals in your community, who would be willing to offer their expertise at no cost to the elected governmental body, would yield a more cost effective program at less expense to taxpayers.
Here are some key facts you should consider:
• Most elected governmental bodies select  a consultant;  to create its facilities plans and manage the project. That selection and the process the elected governmental bodies are inherently flawed and in many cases  suggest a complete breakdown in fiscal oversight and accountability.
•  Questions about a referendum, always raises similar serious questions. Most elected governing boards pick consultants to head up the design and usage of public dollars  with no questions being asked. No questions in spite of the fact that these consultants will reap millions in revenue.
I  strongly encourage you to look beyond the hype and get the facts, and know the facts before you vote.

Please read the consultants contracts, find out how much is being reaped by all of these consultants  and the referendum project list, and ask yourself.

Is this where you want referendum dollars to go?

Maybe a “NO” vote will cause the elected board to reduce the grandiose costs to the taxpayers and result in a more fiscally conservative proposal.

The rising tide of populism is carried by an undercurrent of political opportunism, and referendums provide the perfect opportunity to strengthen this surge. When we reduce complex issues into yes-or-no questions, we similarly simplify the debate. This kind of debate is ripe for hijack. Rhetoric begins to take precedence over discussion of the issue at hand, which often becomes conflated with other—often unrelated—social and political grievances.

Worse still, referendums are continuously deployed as a political tool. Often they are a calculated, strategic move by political leaders to assert their power.

Maybe, the taxpayer should have an opportunity to vote in parts on the proposal to reassert their power, not just a blanket authorization to spend money delegated to consultants and administrative appointees………………………….think before you vote.

Demand transparency as well as a conservative usage of your tax dollars  !!!

Posted in #taxation, capital projects, Chicago, Economic Development, Economy, Education, election fraud, Elections, Finance, fire protection, Pritzker, referendum, Referendums, Roy F. McCampbell, Social Media, Special Education, Taxation, vote | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are Expanded Special Education Services Coming to Illinois ?

HB 3897 is currently making its way through the Illinois legislative process.

This HB 3897 has been assigned to the Human Services Committee of the Illinois House on February 4, 2020.

This bill would expand special education eligibility to students through the school year in which they turn 22.

Currently, students who have not yet received a diploma are eligible for services through the day before their 22nd birthday. Note that federal funding does not cover students beyond the age of 21.

House Sponsors are:
Rep. Frances Ann Hurley – Terra Costa Howard – Rita Mayfield, Maurice A. West, II, Kelly M. Burke, Bob Morgan and Lindsey LaPointe
I have  wondered, how many students would this impact and what are other states doing?
How many students would receive additional services?

According to ISBE data, 306 students aged out during the 2018-2019 school year. If this bill were in effect last year, those students would have been entitled to continue to receive transition services and complete the school year.

What are other states doing?

I  found a 2007 OSEP memo that detailed the ages of eligibility for all 50 states. As of 2007, six states and the District of Columbia provided for students to continue to receive FAPE after their 22nd birthdays, some through the end of that semester and some through the end of that school year or beyond.

I also identified exit data from the Department of Education for the 2016-2017 school year. Based on the eligibility ages each state reported there, six additional states provided FAPE to students during the semester or school year of their 22nd birthdays.

Accordingly, extending eligibility beyond the age of 21 is becoming more common but continues to be the law in a minority of states.
The bill did not move during the veto session but likely will move forward in the spring.

You can reach out to your state representative to voice your opinion with respect to this proposed law.

The Full Text of the Law is below:

State of Illinois
2019 and 2020

Introduced , by Rep. Frances Ann Hurley


105 ILCS 5/14-1.02
from Ch. 122, par. 14-1.02

Amends the Children with Disabilities Article of the School Code. Provides that a student whose 22nd birthday occurs during the school year is eligible for special education services through the end of the school year (rather than being eligible for services only until the day before his or her 22nd birthday). Effective immediately.

LRB101 14254 NHT 63126 b




LRB101 14254 NHT 63126 b


AN ACT concerning education.


Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois,

represented in the General Assembly:


Section 5. The School Code is amended by changing Section

14-1.02 as follows:


(105 ILCS 5/14-1.02) (from Ch. 122, par. 14-1.02)

Sec. 14-1.02. Children with disabilities. “Children with

disabilities” means children between the ages of 3 and 21 for

whom it is determined, through definitions and procedures

described in the Illinois Rules and Regulations to Govern the

Organization and Administration of Special Education, that

special education services are needed. An eligible student who

requires continued public school educational experience to

facilitate his or her successful transition and integration

into adult life is eligible for such services through age 21,

inclusive, which, for purposes of this Article, means the day

before the student’s 22nd birthday, unless his or her 22nd

birthday occurs during the school year, in which case he or she

is eligible for such services through the end of the school

year. An individualized education program must be written and

agreed upon by appropriate school personnel and parents or

their representatives for any child receiving special


– 2 –
LRB101 14254 NHT 63126 b


(Source: P.A. 95-14, eff. 7-16-07.)


Section 99. Effective date. This Act takes effect upon

becoming law.

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Referendum Campaigns Can Be Savagely Divisive, Even At a State Level in a School Board Referendum

The referendum, as an instrument of political decision-making, has been the source of much consternation in 2016. First, June saw an unexpected British vote to leave the European Union (EU). Then, in October, Colombians shocked the world as the narrowest of majorities, 50.2% on a 38% turnout, voted to reject a peace deal negotiated between the government and the leftist guerrillas of the FARC to end its 52-year civil conflict.

Included among those shocked was, apparently, the Nobel Peace Prize committee, which had prematurely rewarded president Santos with its 2016 prize. The same day, a referendum in Hungary produced a 98% vote to reject the authority of the EU to mandate settlement of refugees in the country. The turnout was below that required to make the result legally valid, but the government made it clear it would be taking the result as a mandate for action nevertheless.
Such episodes served to highlight both the seductive attraction and grave perils of referendums for those who decide to hold them. There are three primary reasons why one might consider referendums a good idea. First is their intrinsic worth as an exercise in direct democracy. Referendum campaigns engage national publics, often passive and sometimes actively excluded, in the business of political debate and decision-making. Those who see virtue in the idea of a more direct link between the popular will and the levers of power therefore admire them as an instrument of empowerment for the too-often neglected people.
Second, in the cases of difficult negotiations over a peace settlement in societies afflicted by years of civil conflict, the prospect of a popular vote on the final deal concentrates the minds of those negotiating on coming up proposals that can be politically sustained. The ultimate role of the whole population in deciding whether the deal sticks can be important in prodding elites, otherwise comfortable and secure in their factional power, to do the harder work of engaging with the bigger political picture.
Third, a referendum may be useful to ensure a broad base of political support for a controversial decision, and ‘lock in’ a choice that will necessitate riding out unpopular consequences during the implementation. If concessions need to be made to those who committed crimes during a conflict, or if a course will impose severe economic costs, or if a divisive point principle is at issue, endorsement by direct popular vote will likely aid political stability, and also bind not just the present government, but those that follow it.
On the other hand, there are two very stark downsides to choosing a referendum as the way to resolve an issue. The first is that a referendum campaign opens the space for actors on either side to portray the choice between the status quo and the proposed change as a false one, and to seduce voters with false promises based on fantasies of what ideal outcome might be delivered as an alternative if voters reject the course elites like party leaders have recommended. A core purpose of referendums is to engage those with relatively low information about the issues, which is to say the general population, in the choice. This makes them especially vulnerable to producing decisions based on false information and/or unrealistic beliefs about what alternatives are possible – often stoked by opportunistic actors within the political system.
The second downside is that referendum campaigns themselves can be savagely divisive, especially when the prospect of a narrow victory tempts campaigners to use every argument at their disposal. Political division in both the UK and Colombia has been markedly intensified by the 2016 campaigns there. The Australian government is presently considering a ‘plebiscite’ on the issue of marriage equality even though a clear majority in favour exists in parliament; many are strongly opposed on the grounds that such a campaign would be socially divisive, and might even provide a platform that legitimises hate speech.
Above all, the key principle of referendums for any government is this: if you call one, you had better be certain you are going to win. Because if you don’t, the political costs for both the leaders responsible and the political subdivision at large are often vast.

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