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New Regs Ban Sports Groups From Distributing Fliers at School

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Copyright 2013 Capital Gazette Communications, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

The Capital (Annapolis, MD)
August 22, 2013 Thursday
A; Pg.5
708 words
New school regulation to impact youth sports;
Organizations can no longer send home fliers with students
TIM PRATT tpratt@capgaznews.com

A few times a year, Chris Sexton and the Buccaneers Athletic Club send out hundreds of fliers to Pasadena schools, letting students and parents know about upcoming seasons and giving them a chance to register.

Those fliers typically get sent home with students, helping boost player sign-ups.

But beginning this fall, schools won't be distributing fliers from the Pasadena club or any of the other roughly 100 youth athletic organizations in the county.

The county school board this summer adopted regulations that reduce the amount of material that can get sent home with students.

Only fliers and materials coming from the school system, government agencies, parent-teacher organizations, clubs directly affiliated with the school system and the nonprofit 21st Century Education Foundation will be sent home with students.

Material from other Anne Arundel County organizations, including youth athletic teams, can only be displayed on a table or rack designated at each school. Schools won't send them home anymore.

The change was made to bring "uniformity" to the materials being sent home with students, schools spokesman Bob Mosier said. It also is meant to reduce the workload of school staff, which previously had to distribute the materials to students.

"Some schools have become little community post offices with the massive amount of things being sent home," Mosier said.

There also was competition among athletic organizations at some schools as they vied to send information home with students, said Rick Anthony, director of the county's Department of Recreation and Parks.

While Anthony said he doesn't anticipate major problems from the new rules, the change has upset some local youth athletic organizations. They counted on the flier distribution to reach potential players.

"I don't like it," Sexton said. "We're here providing a service to the community, getting kids off the couch, teaching teamwork and respect ... This is just another hurdle we're going to have to somehow overcome to get kids more active."

He said that while the Buccaneers Athletic Club has a website and a database of families, it also relies on sending out about 5,000 fliers a year to local schools, dividing them into packets of 25 for easy distribution in classrooms.

"We're not going to waste money by putting a stack of papers in a hallway somewhere or in the side of an office," Sexton said. "There are so many things out there now with 3 inches of dust on them that nobody touches already."

While many schools sent outside organizations' materials home with students on a regular basis, others didn't. Some just put the materials on tables or in racks. Some did that and also sent fliers home with students. The decision was left up to principals, Mosier said.

Principals will still have control over what is displayed at schools, though the materials must meet requirements.

Groups submitting materials must be based in the county, and the materials can't be defamatory, obscene, lewd, or age-inappropriate. They also can't encourage criminal behavior.

Churches can leave materials at schools.

"Parents should be aware that they could have a flier for a church on a table in their child's school," Mosier said.

The school system has never sent home religious materials, Mosier said. He doesn't know of any church groups that have tried to have materials placed in public schools.

Mike Sutphin, Cape St. Claire Recreation Council president and football commissioner, said he doesn't see the changes drastically reducing player registration, but thinks they could have an impact.

"Any time you take away any type of advertisement, whether it's fliers or anything else, it's definitely an issue," Sutphin said. "You're not getting the word out there. I don't know if it brought in an extra 150 kids or it didn't, but any time you take away an advertisement, it won't help."

Crofton Athletic Council President Eddie Hegewisch said his organization sent fliers to four Crofton elementary schools and Crofton Middle School. Although the organization has a database of families whose children have already participated, the new policy could hamper recruitment, Hegewisch said.

"In the end, it just hurts those families that don't know what is available to them," Hegewisch said.

August 22, 2013

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