Sample School Board Policy on Advertising

Sources and Principles

This document was produced by the Center for Commercial-Free Public Education. Some of the material is original, but much of it was compiled from existing public documents. The Principles section is taken almost entirely from the Milwaukee Principles for Corporate Involvement in the Schools, developed at a meeting hosted by the School of Education, University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin. Significant portions of the Policies section were taken from commercialism policies that currently exist in five North American school districts: Berkeley (CA) Unified School District, Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose (MN) Independent School District #877, Central Okanagan-Kelowna (British Colombia) School District #23 , Pennridge (PA) School District, and San Francisco (CA) Unified School District

School-business relationships based on sound principles and community input can contribute to high quality education. However, compulsory attendance confers on educators an obligation to protect the welfare of their students and the integrity of the learning environment. Therefore, when working together, schools and businesses must ensure that educational values are not distorted in the process. Positive school-business relationships should be ethical and structured in accordance with the following principles:

  1. Corporate involvement shall not require students to      observe, listen to, or read commercial advertising.
  2. Selling or providing access to a captive audience in the classroom for commercial purposes is a violation of the public trust.
  3. Since school personnel, property and time are publicly funded, selling or providing access to advertising on school property outside the classroom involves ethical and legal issues that must be addressed.
  4. Corporate involvement must support the goals and objectives of the schools. Curriculum and instruction are within the purview of educators, with the involvement of the community.
  5. Programs of corporate involvement must be structured to meet identified educational needs, not commercial motives, and must be evaluated for educational effectiveness by the school district on an ongoing basis.
  6. Schools and educators should hold sponsored and donated materials to the same standards used for the selection and purchase of curriculum materials.
  7. Corporate involvement programs should not limit the discretion of schools and teachers in the use of sponsored materials.
  8. Sponsor recognition and corporate logos should be for identification rather than commercial purposes.
  9. Any attempt to establish programs of corporate involvement must involve full public disclosure and provide ample opportunity for community input in the initial stages of negotiation, well before a deal is finalized.

Regarding Corporate Advertising and Sponsorship in Public Schools

Within the context of the stated principles, our school district adopts the following policies:

1. General Points Regarding School Function and Commercialism

1.1 All public-private sector partnerships entered into by this school district shall be, in the judgment of the school board, to be age appropriate and in the best interest of students.

1.2 If the economic benefit from any partnership exceeds $2,500 to the school or the district, the agreement must be set forth in a written agreement signed and approved by the school board at a public meeting, where the community is given adequate notice and has every opportunity to provide input and feedback.

1.3 All public-private sector partnerships must be consistent with all labor contracts, competitive bid requirements and all applicable Federal, State and District laws, rules and regulations.

1.4 If a public-private sector partnership requires a contract, said contract will not require a length longer than five years, or provide for automatic renewals or extensions, nor shall it subject the district to payment during periods beyond the length of the contract or in excess of the prorated benefit in the event of early termination.

1.5 No public-private sector partnership shall provide direct financial gain to district employees, students, parents or school board members.

1.6 Parents and community members should be informed of any new public-private sector partnerships via letter and public pronouncements in newspapers, school newsletters, school websites, etc.

2. Logo Advertising on School Grounds

2.1 All company logos appearing on district property, including non-cash donations provided by sponsors, shall be for identification purposes only.

2.2 Logos will not be permitted on facilities or informational equipment such as a scoreboard.

2.3 Logos will not be permitted for display in school hallways or classrooms for the purposes of advertising to students. This includes banners or signs that carry "educational messages" that also prominently display company logos.

2.4 Logos will not be permitted on the outside or the inside of school busses.

2.5 Public signs indicating the district's appreciation of an enterprise's support for education shall be permitted, if approved by the school board.

2.6 No district students will be required to wear the logo of any manufacturer for any school activity.

3. Advertising in Electronic Media

3.1 Except for courses of study which have specific lessons related to advertising, the students of this district shall not be required to observe, listen to or read commercial advertising in the classroom.

3.2 The school district shall not enter into any contract to obtain electronic equipment or software, that will obligate the district to expose students to advertising directed at young people during school time or at home while completing school assignments.

3.3 The school district shall not enter into any contract to obtain electronic equipment or software, that will obligate the school to post information about school procedures or events on electronic media that contain advertising directed at students.

3.4 The school district will not enter into any contract for electronic media services, where personal information will be collected from the students by the providers of the services in question. Personal information includes, but is not limited to, the student's name, telephone number and home address.

4. Exclusive Vending Agreements

4.1 The district will enter into no agreements with vendors to provide exclusive district-wide access to student customers for soft drinks or snack foods purchased by students in school.

4.2 No students will be used as agents for any district wide vendors in an exclusive arrangement to sell products or services to the community at large.

4.3 When the school district asks students to purchase required educational supplies, it will remain neutral and will not enter into any agreement to advise students to buy particular brand name products or products from a particular school supply merchant.

4.4 The district will not enter into any agreement with a company that asks students to carry a card used for school identification and/or to gain access to student services, when that card can also be used to gain access to private services provided by the company.

5. Sponsored Educational Materials and Advertising in Curriculum

5.1 The school district will purchase no curriculum materials that contain identifiable brand names in the content of the curriculum.

5.2 The school district will purchase no curriculum materials that contain promotional information about a company that is irrelevant to the lesson being taught in the content of the curriculum.

5.3 Teachers in the district will not use identifiable brand names or logos in their instruction unless they are found to be necessary to the lesson being taught.

5.4 Sponsored Educational Materials, whether purchased by the district or provided free of charge by the sponsor, will not be used by teachers unless the district, including teachers and parents, has reviewed them and found them to meet the following standards:

  • Accuracy: Statements are consistent with established fact or with prevailing expert opinion
  • Objectivity: Points of view are fairly represented. If the subject is controversial, arguments are balanced. Any sponsor bias is clearly stated and references to differing views are made.
  • Completeness: The materials contain all relevant information and do not deceive or mislead by omission.
  • Language: Materials are both interesting and readable.
  • Non-discrimination: The text and illustrations are free of any content that could be considered derogatory toward a particular ethnic group, race or sex.
  • Diverse Representation: The materials reflect the gender diversity and racial diversity of the students that will be using them.
  • Non-commercial: The name and logo of the sponsor is used only to identify the source of the materials.

6. Student Marketing Surveys and Protection of Student Privacy

6.1 Students shall not be required under any circumstances to fill out surveys to provide marketing information about their interests and preferences for particular vendors, businesses, and products.

6.2 A list of students names and/or addresses and telephone numbers may not be released by the district for purpose of advertising brand name products to students. Similarly, participation in any venture that provides any vendor with the information necessary to generate a list is prohibited.


Advertising is the oral, written or graphic statement made by the seller in any manner in connection with the solicitation of business which calls for the public's attention to arouse a desire to buy or patronize in exchange for financial payment. This includes the visible promotion of product logos for other than identification purposes.

Advertising is not the sale, to the district, the schools or other site based councils, for market value, of goods and services, found by the district to be educationally and nutritionally sound, which have brand names, trademarks, logos or tags for product or service identification purposes. These shall be governed by the purchasing or procurement policies of the district.

Sponsorship is an agreement between a school district, an individual school, or a site based or parent based group with an individual group, company or community-based organization in which the sponsor provides financial or resource support in exchange for recognition.

A partnership is an agreement between a school or school district and a private entity, wherein the basis and the terms of the relationship are set by the school district, and agreed upon by the private entity, or reached mutually. Frequently a partnership is less formal than a contractual relationship. The school or school district should not be required by the partnership to sell products to students, expose students to advertisements during school time, or place advertising on school property. Partnerships should be of a non-exclusive nature, and should not adversely affect or distract from the instructional mission of the school.

An exclusive arrangement to sell or vend an item in schools is one where a school or a school district signs a contract to make one product available to students, and such contract specifically forbids the sale of a competitor's product in the same school or school district.

Sponsored Materials:
Sponsored Materials, or Sponsored Educational Materials, are educational materials and programs developed and/or funded by commercial enterprises, trade organizations, or nonprofit organizations with significant corporate backing. These materials are intended for use or distribution at school, and can be intended for use as either primary or supplemental curriculum.

Electronic Media:
Electronic Media is any type of instruction that happens during school time, or any program shown during school time that requires the use of electronic equipment, such as televisions, video equipment, computers, movie projectors, etc.

Public Disclosure:
Public Disclosure is the attempt to inform parents and community members of any and all considerations by a school or school district to enter into a corporate contract BEFORE the contract is fully negotiated and signed. The public should be informed of the terms of any possible contract. Full public disclosure is the use of all available means to inform the public, including: postings in local newspapers, sending home parental notification, putting aside agenda points for discussions at public school board meetings, and allowing full public input at said meetings before adoption of the contract. See extended definition in Appendix A.

Appendix A

Parent and Community Disclosure of Commercial Agreements

  • When a school district, either the board of education and/or the administration, intends to enter into a relationship with a company or corporation, that would obligate the school district or individual school (s) to market products on school premises or property, compel students to watch advertising, or uses the school district's agency in any way for commercial purposes or as a byproduct of receiving services, money, or other remuneration from said company or corporation, the school district must notify parents and the community that such an arrangement is being considered.
  • Such notification shall include disclosure of the parties involved, the duration of the partnership or contract, a financial and funding prospectus of the company or corporation, and when the board of education or school administration intends to make a decision about said contract.
  • The notification shall be made public through the local newspaper(s), PTAs and other parent organizations and through the district's official newsletter or medium to the community, if such an avenue exists.
  • Such notification shall be made 60 days or more before the board of education or administration intends to made a decision on such a partnership or contract. Parents and other community shall be given an opportunity to comment on and/or ask questions about the respective relationship in writing and/or in person at board meeting(s) or other public meetings where school district matters are publicly discussed. Such parent and community responses shall be part of the public record.
  • If a commercial contract is approved where children are compelled to watch advertising as a condition of receiving instruction, or where a school district would allow a company to integrate products or advertising in instructional material required of children to use and/or purchase, the parents shall be notified of such an arrangement and the parent shall be allowed to opt out their child from using or being exposed to that material.