Superintendent orders middle school paper to drop political ads

SOUTH CAROLINA ‘ A school district superintendent cited a policy prohibiting advertising in school publications when he held distribution of Gaffney Middle School’s new student paper.

The Chief’s Chronicle included three political ads purchased by candidates in the race for Cherokee County School Board, as well as a ‘good luck’ message purchased by a building principal.

Superintendent Bill James said district policy states, ‘Schools will not display or distribute advertising materials of a commercial, political or religious nature in the schools or on the school grounds.’

James said he also was concerned the ads might be misinterpreted as school district support for particular school board candidates in the eight-person field.

The district advertising policy has been in place since 1994. However, according to Cody Sossamon, executive editor of The Gaffney Ledger, both high schools in the district have traditionally published ads in their student papers without any problems. The Gaffney Ledger prints student papers for Gaffney High School and Blacksburg High School in addition to The Chief’s Chronicle.

Judy Olson-Robinson, the adviser to The Chief’s Chronicle, said she was not aware of the policy when she encouraged students to sell ads to defray their printing costs.

James said because the policy is vague, it probably should be ‘reviewed and refined.’ As of press time, however, a district spokesperson said no action had yet been taken on the issue since the November school board elections.

Bill Rogers, executive director of the South Carolina Press Association, said in an article in the Oct. 23 Gaffney Ledger that the students should have been praised for selling political ads in the student newspaper.

‘What better way to teach the political process and encourage civic involvement than to have a political ad in a student newspaper,’ Rogers said.

Olson-Robinson said the Chronicle’s Oct 18. issue, re-printed without the ads, was reviewed and released by Principal Herman Thompson on Oct. 29.