Fliers from churches and nonprofit groups like the Boy Scouts are OK for the lobby but not for the backpack, the Beaufort County School District has decided.
The district released new rules Wednesday to govern handouts that have long been sent home with students at many schools, but without any uniform policy that applied to all schools.
Now, fliers from outside organizations can only be set out in the school and will not distributed individually to each student to be sent home.
Only school fliers will be sent home, according to the rules, and those for community organizations will be displayed in a public area of the school for students or parents to pick up. Organizations seeking to distribute a flier must fill out a request form and receive district-office approval, the rules say.
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Nonprofit groups must submit proof of their nonprofit status and meet other guidelines -- for instance, the program or event promoted must take place in the county and help develop character or benefit students academically or physically.
Commercial fliers won't be distributed "unless their purpose is to further an approved school activity, such as graduation, class pictures or class rings," district spokesman Jim Foster said.
Before now, policies regarding distribution of fliers was decided by each school's principal, and Foster said organizations could get different answers about the same flier.
These rules address many concerns voiced by principals, 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, he said.
Several organizations have said they are in favor of a consistent policy but wonder how many people they will reach if fliers are not sent home in students' backpacks.
On Thursday, the Lowcountry Community Church in Bluffton was the first organization to have a flier approved, for its Clothing Connection event. Tabitha Turner, who completed the request for the church, said the approval process was easy and convenient.
However, she was concerned the event's attendance will lag if students or parents don't pick up the fliers.
"It's definitely going to affect us as far as getting the word out," she said. "But all in all, I think it's a good process."
Foster said the district wants to continue working with the community, but schools need to put instructional time for students first.
"We want to be fair, we want to be consistent, and we want to preserve as much instructional time as we can," he said. "We want to work with our community organizations, but there is a balance."
Many principals have said such a districtwide policy is overdue.
"I am definitely in favor of the policy," said Mossy Oaks Elementary School principal Donald Gruel. "I've been doing this for many years, and it's something we've needed, and I think it's headed in right direction and will serve its purpose."
Document: Beaufort County School District Request Form to Distribute Fliers
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.