Opinion

Our View: Districts right to reject flier

South Sound residents hoping to impeach President Bush drew about 700 people to a well-publicized meeting in downtown Olympia and touched off a discussion in the North Thurston school district about the distribution of fliers to school students.

As part of their outreach efforts the Citizens' Movement to Impeach Bush/Cheney wanted to hand out fliers through the local school districts.

North Thurston turned down the request. Olympia and Tumwater officials also declined to distribute the fliers.

It was the right decision.

But the request has prompted a discussion within the North Thurston district about its flier-distribution policy. The district is wrestling with a question: What handouts are appropriate and which ones should be rejected?

The school board members will spend a portion of their meetings this month and in May developing a more definitive policy.

It's an appropriate discussion because it affects the lives of every student.

South Sound parents can testify to the number of fliers that come home with their students almost on a daily basis. Parents sometimes have to dig through their child's backpack to ensure they know about upcoming events and deadlines.

So what's appropriate for distribution through the public school system and what's not? It runs the gamut.

Clearly, school-related notices are appropriate. As for sport and scouting recruitment fliers, some parents question whether they should be handed out to every student or just to those students who request one. North Thurston rightfully forbids the distribution of commercial brochures. And religious or political handouts are routinely rejected because distribution through the schools might imply the endorsement of the district.

Board members are considering an amendment to their distribution rules that would deny a distribution request "if it may create a potential for public controversy, a potential for the district incurring any financial obligation, or is otherwise determined to be not in the best interest of the district."

That's a pretty broad policy, but it would clearly allow the district to reject the impeachment forum flyer.

North Thurston officials wisely are considering a procedure whereby all distribution requests for out-of-school fliers would go through a single individual - Courtney Schrieve, the district's community relations director.

"Students go to school to learn; they don't go to school to be recipients of commercial information," Schrieve said.

Centralizing the decision-making is the right thing to do because it will ensure consistency. In the end, S chrieve or her staff will be making judgment calls - pleasing some, angering others. The more direction the school board can provide through a formal flier distribution policy, the better. Online extra

Tax policy: The poor pay a disproportionate share of their income in property taxes. A column by Jeff Chapman, research director at the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, can be read online at www.theolympian.com/opinion.

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