Montgomery school board suggests banning nonprofit fliers from backpacks -- Gazette.Net


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Despite hearing concerns from Boy Scout volunteers Monday, the Montgomery County Board of Education voted unanimously to introduce a resolution that would ban nonprofit fliers from being distributed to students.

Government agencies, such as the county’s recreation department and the school system, and PTAs, would be allowed to distribute pamphlets, and fliers could still be given to students in elementary schools. Fliers could be available to students on tables in all schools.

Residents can submit comments until the end of May. After discussion, the board will make a final decision in June. The policy will take effect next school year.

The fliers are crucial to ensuring diversity within Boy Scout recruitment, according to John C. Hanson of Gaithersburg, a Boy Scout volunteer.

The fliers reach students that are hard to reach otherwise, whether it be because there is a language barrier, they do not have a computer at home, they are new to the area, or they do not have stable housing, Hanson told board members Monday.

“I believe that the neediest children in the area will be the ones most hurt by the elimination of backpack fliers,” he said.

The Boy Scouts served more than 8,000 county students from first grade to age 21 in 2011.

Some school board members said that it is not the school system’s responsibility to provide a free outlet for nonprofits to get their message to students and families.

“I’m kind of torn with the question of whether or not the school system has a role in helping nonprofit organizations distribute their information,” said board member Phil Kauffman (At large) of Olney.

Alan Xie, a Richard Montgomery High School senior and the student member of the board, said fliers waste time and resources.

He said he often sees students discard fliers.

The policy is being reevaluated this year after a flier sent home by Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays provoked outrage of some school officials and gay advocates.

Under law, the school system is not able to pick which fliers are sent home.

Some board members said they are concerned that the change may result in a distribution shift of what some see as offensive fliers. Those fliers are now just sent to middle and high school students but the rule change could shift them to elementary students.

“We have tried to do our best in walking the legal tightrope, and realizing that there may be consequences,” said Patricia O’Neill (Dist. 3) of Bethesda.

If the change is enacted, after next year the school system will reevaluate its impact.

Residents can submit comments to the board at boe@mcpsmd.org.

jbondeson@gazette.net