School board OKs policy focused on outside groups

December 9, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer 

The Martinsville School Board on Monday approved a regulation with procedures by which non-school groups that wish to distribute information or materials can post links on the school division’s website, provided they meet certain requirements. 

The action followed months of requests by the Rev. Bill Moss, pastor of Hill Memorial Baptist Church, and sometimes others, for the school division to allow passive distribution of Bibles in schools. Passive distribution refers to making the Bibles available for students to pick up if they choose to do so.

The school board has stuck by its policy of not allowing such distributions. 

Moss was at the meeting Monday night but did not speak during a time for public comment other than to ask for a copy of the regulation. In an interview afterward, he indicated he will review the regulation and discuss it with others.

The regulation says: “The uninterrupted flow of educational services to students and the efficient operation of schools are of paramount importance to the Martinsville City Public School Division (‘MCPS’) and takes precedence. In accordance with this purpose and School Board Policy KF, which requires that the division superintendent, or designee, approve, in advance, materials sought to be distributed or made available by non-school organizations, this regulation establishes the criteria and procedures for the approval, distribution, and posting of materials in MCPS by non-school organizations.” 

The regulation does not apply to governmental organizations and groups sponsored and approved by the school division, such as city agencies and departments and MCPS parent-teacher organizations and booster clubs, whose activities relate to and support the educational mission of the school division, the regulation states. During the meeting, MCPS Superintendent Pam Heath said the parks and recreation department and audited organizations like booster clubs are examples.

The regulation states: “In order to avoid disruption to the educational process and school operations and the unnecessary distraction or diversion of student, staff and administrative time, the distribution of information and materials by non-school organizations will be limited to a website posting of an organization’s web page link on the MCPS Website.” 

The division will maintain a spot on its website for such links, the regulation says.

To be eligible to have links on the MCPS website, non-school organizations must be nonprofit organizations that do not unlawfully discriminate; do not promote, either directly or indirectly, illegal activities; do not promote any activities contrary to the curriculum of MCPS; and meet some other criteria. 

Links to websites of a partisan political nature will not be posted on the school division’s website, the regulation states. It adds: “Links to websites suggesting that MCPS advertises or endorses a commercial product, service, group or endeavor shall not be posted, except as otherwise authorized pursuant to (the school board’s policy on fund-raising and solicitation),” the regulation states.

Before the posting of a non-school organization link to the MCPS website, the organization must submit an application, the requested link and a copy of the organization’s 501(c)(3) determination letter. The application must be submitted to the superintendent. 

The posting on the MCPS website must be approved by the superintendent and/or designee, who will monitor all non-school organization links from time to time to determine compliance with the regulation, the regulation states.

It adds: “Upon clicking on any non-school organization link posted on the MCPS website, a disclaimer will appear upon which the MCPS website visitor will be informed of and agree to the following: ‘Please note that by clicking on this link, you will leave the MCPS website and enter a privately-owned website created, operated and maintained by a non-school-related organization. By linking to this non-school-related organization, the Martinsville City Public School Division neither sponsors nor endorsees its activities, information, services, purposes or security policies and expressly disclaims such.” 

If a non-school organization link posted on the school division website is subsequently found to be in violation of the regulation, the link will be removed immediately from the MCPS website, the regulation states.

When describing the regulation before the school board voted, Heath said many organizations want to distribute information or materials, and “we spend a great deal of time” looking into those requests. Adopting the regulation will save the school division a lot of paper and time, and will provide more flexibility, she told the board. 

School board member Craig Dietrich asked Heath if any agencies or groups that have distributed information or materials in MCPS in the past do not have websites. Heath said none that she knows of. Dietrich also said a lot of people don’t have web service at home, but Heath responded that all students have access to smart phones at school.

The resolution passed unanimously. 


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