Ads in school: BOE wants greater ed purpose
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · November 30, 2012

A new advertising policy by West Branch Community Schools states that any ad in which the promotional purpose outweighs the educational gain could be removed by the Board of Education or superintendent.

The new policy was prompted in part by a discussion with All-Sports Booster Club President Tony Luneckas regarding a new scorers table for the high school gymnasium.

Luneckas, speaking to the board in October, asked about the club buying the table and helping pay for it by selling advertising on the front panel.

At the time, Board President Mike Owen was concerned about putting too much advertising in front of the student body.

“The gym is the last place we have without ads,” he said then.

The board discussed what advertising is acceptable and what is not, but had not determined a way to clearly define those guidelines.

Owen said he saw differences between advertising on the back fence of the baseball field and advertising inside the gymnasium — one is normally only seen during the baseball season, while the other would be seen frequently.

“I’d like to keep it out of the gymnasiums and classrooms,” Owen said. “And we don’t need to advertise everything under the sun.”

Luneckas said the new policy seems necessary, but is “a little too much.”

“I think that the policy was necessary to protect the school from having companies or organizations that don’t reflect the goals and mission of the school having the right to advertise in a way that could be detrimental to our students. I understand and support that,” the Booster Club president said. “As to the overall policy and what it says, I think it is ambiguous and it creates a lot more unnecessary red tape for organizations like ours.”

Board members said they also saw a difference between an advertisement that specified products or services verses, say, a business name only as part of a list of other supporters.

Superintendent Kevin Hatfield said the scorers table could be decorated only with Bear paw prints while the board decided if and how it would be used for advertisements.

The policy applies both the for-profit business and non-profit groups.

“The use of students, the school district name, or school district buildings and sites for advertising is subject to approval by the superintendent and may be subject to review by the Board of Directors,” reads the opening of the policy.

The policy states that the school will allow ads “if the purpose is educationally related and not in conflict with the mission of the district.” In other words, the school must determine that “the educational gain outweighs any promotional purpose.”

Also, advertising with the help of students must have parental consent.

Ads that have been denied or taken down could be appealed to the school board, according to the policy.

“I think the guidance it gives us is quite simple: If you have any advertising ideas at all, you must run it by us first,” Luneckas said. “So, you can see why this will require more time and energy from our 100-percent volunteer driven group.”

He said the booster club will “continue to try and think of new and creative ways to serve our community so we can support our student athletes.”

“The handling of the policy will start to take shape and that will allow us to know more about what is being asked of us and what it will require of us in the future,” Luneckas said.

The board members listed several places ads could or have appeared — the yearbook, Bear newspaper, scoreboards, Web site, T-shirts and sports facilities.

“It’s a hard definition — an ‘educational institution’ — and it’s hard to say no if it’s a legal activity,” Owen said. “(The West Branch Times) can decide whom it lets in the paper, but it is harder to define when you are a public entity.”

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