Beaufort County schools halt fliers to parents while rules formed

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comOctober 3, 2013 

Parents of students in Beaufort County schools may have noticed something new, or rather something missing, since school started this year â€" no non-school-related fliers have gone home.

The district has stopped distribution of all such fliers as it reviews uniform rules for all of its schools.

But while the district works to put these rules in place, many organizations that have long sent home fliers through the schools have been left to find alternatives for spreading the word.

"That tactic of sending fliers home has been very effective and is used pretty much nationwide to help Boy Scouts recruit," said Jake Baker, the Scouts' Lowcountry district executive. "I agree there probably needs to be a policy, but they just sprung it on us with no notice, and kind of sent us scrambling."

The district has not had any rules or guidelines on fliers, and distribution to this point has been decided by each school's principal. This means organizations could get varying answers from different principals concerning the same flier, school district spokesman Jim Foster said.

He said principals have also voiced other concerns, such as implied message-endorsement when they allow a flier to go home, instruction time lost while the fliers are passed out and "message overload" -- as the fliers' messages sometimes compete with school-related announcements.

To address these concerns, Foster said, many principals have called for some guidance.

"I absolutely think consistency is needed and will help everyone," said Carmen Dillard, principal of Coosa Elementary School. "It will not only help the schools but help people in the community to know what we can send home and what we can't."

Superintendent Jeffrey Moss said he, along with other district officials, has created rules for the fliers. The rules have been submitted to the district's attorneys for review, Moss said, and should be implemented within a few weeks.

Foster declined to provide the rules at this time, saying they were still in draft form. The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette have filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the rules.

Moss said they would be similar to procedures at districts where he has worked. The procedure for Lee County Schools in North Carolina, where Moss was superintendent before coming to Beaufort County, limited flier distribution to government agencies and departments, nonprofit organizations, school business partners and higher-education institutions.

Moss said for-profit groups would not be able to send fliers home under the new rules. Legal restrictions about what information could be distributed at certain grade levels would also be adopted, Moss said. As an example, he said, religious fliers could not be passed out at the elementary level.

"I would probably say that a lot of what's been sent home in years past will probably still meet the requirements to be sent home in the future," Moss said.

Baker said the Boy Scouts have had to schedule extra meetings to make up for the lack of fliers. He said the Scouts will probably lose about 100 kids from signing up because of the flier halt.

The Beaufort YMCA also has had fewer children sign up for its recreational activities after the association's fliers weren't allowed to go home, sports coordinator Bobby O'Mara said.

The county's Parks and Leisure Services also frequently sends fliers home with children about its recreational and educational programs, PALS director Scott Marshall said.

All three organizations said they understood the need for a policy and consistency, and they hope to be able to send fliers home soon.

"I will say that being able to distribute for recreational programs through the schools, it is very beneficial to have that medium," Marshall said. "I don't know what the new rules say, but I hope they include a provision for us to be able to partner with the schools and continue to distribute that information."

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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