Beaufort County School District to consider policy on giving fliers to students

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comOctober 29, 2012 

Bob Cooke has distributed fliers about his church basketball and cheerleading programs through Beaufort County schools for seven years.

So he was surprised when administrators at Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts told him he'd have to get permission from a Beaufort County School District spokesman if he wanted to do so again this year.

Cooke got the permission he sought, but the fliers promoting the Upward basketball and cheerleading programs at St. Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church won't be distributed until students return from fall break next week -- two weeks after he'd hoped to distribute them.

Cooke worries that will be too close to the Nov. 9 deadline for scholarship applications to be effective.

School administrators have been allowed to accept or decline requests because distribution can be time-consuming and detract from teachers' classroom preparation, spokesman Jim Foster said.

However, he said Cooke's concerns suggest that a uniform policy for all schools -- something the district currently lacks -- might be helpful.

"If it's commercial, no, we don't do it. That's fairly easy," Foster said. "In the case of nonprofits, you try to use your best judgment, which is why principals have said they would appreciate uniform guidance, and I would, too."

Some fliers, such as ones advertising programs conducted by the Island Recreation Association or Boys & Girls Club, are sent home because the district has a formal agreement with those organizations -- Island Rec shares space with Hilton Head schools and has supplied computers to the Boys & Girls Club, Foster noted. But most others are decided on a case-by-case basis.

Jill McAden, principal at Hilton Head Island Elementary, said she began referring questions about fliers to Foster when he was hired by the school district just before the beginning of the 2011-12 school year. However, that's not necessarily what everyone does, she said.

In her conversations with other principals, she's said they've expressed the need for a policy.

McAden said the school gets requests weekly to distribute information or display posters -- not only from nonprofit groups, but for community events, businesses and charity drives. Typically, she and her staff try to keep what's sent home with students school-related -- graded papers and school announcements, for example.

Attempts to reach a handful of other elementary school principals were unsuccessful.

A group of district administrators is set to discuss a uniform policy, Foster said.

In the meantime, principals have been given an electronic copy of Cooke's flier, in case they wanted to post it online before school is back in session, Foster said.

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