Flier Kerfuffle Redux

Remember the kerfuffle over sending pagan fliers home with kids at Hollymead Elementary? Fundamentalist Christians figured that only their religion was allowed in schools. Well, here we go again — an atheist summer camp wants to promote itself in schools, but some teachers are refusing to hand out the flier because it promotes atheism, Lonnie explains over at his blog.  #

10 Responses to “Flier Kerfuffle Redux”


  • Personally, I don’t see why the schools need to engage in distributing fliers for anyone. Having been a teacher, it’s a waste of class time and resources to pass stacks of these things out. To the teachers who are afraid to associate themselves with groups with which they disagree, blame it on the school system: “I have no control over what the school sends out. The fliers that go home are part of free discourse.” That’s the cheap way out.

    Or, if it means so much to you, be sure that you are confident in what exactly it is that you believe before attacking or detracting from others.

  • I don’t think atheism technically qualifies as a “religion” the same way that Paganism or Christianity would. But I’m still waiting for the ambitious Satanist to try and send home a flyer that way.

  • Actually, Atheism doesn’t have to be a religion to qualify for the program. The way it is written, I believe any non-profit organization qualifies.

    As to the Satanism thing, if a local group was perhaps part of the offical Church of Satan, then perhaps they could indeed qualify. That said, the few Satanists I know would probably be more likely to spend their time doing animal rescue or something like that, rather than but heads with the county. Besides, my impression is that they try to stay rather low-key.

    Of course, I could always be wrong…

  • Personally, I don’t see why the schools need to engage in distributing fliers for anyone. Having been a teacher, it’s a waste of class time and resources to pass stacks of these things out.

    I’m with you, Sylvia. Religion has nothing to do with it — there’s no reason teachers should be expected to distribute arbitrary items from outside organizations.

  • I’ll be the only one (so far, at least) to vote in favor of fliers. I like getting informational fliers about SOCA, Little League, Piedmont YMCA programs, summer drama camp, etc. I’ve signed my kid up for several activities because of the fliers sent home in the Friday envelopes (a county schools’ thing, I believe). I doubt I would have taken advantage of all these programs if it were up to me to find the information about each one myself. Call me lazy, call me disorganized–but I like the convenience of getting useful information handed to me.

    I concede that it takes up time (though I think teacher’s aides mostly stuff the Friday envelopes); I suspect that the organizations have to make the fliers themselves, of course, so I don’t think the schools are providing the paper/copies themselves; and I agree that it’s an incursion of something extracurricular, something that is not directly advancing our kids on their march towards the SOLs. I just don’t object that strenuously to the idea that the public schools might be more than simply a place where a curriculum is conveyed. The public schools are a place where large numbers of our community’s children are together at the same time, a medium through which the families of those children can be reached for matters not directly related to the curriculum but arguably just as important–some events/programs might seem trivial, but the net effect is, I believe, to encourage community involvement, and I think that’s a good thing.

  • Cecil,

    I think Brian Wheeler might have pointed out something similar a while back. Basically I think he said that gettigna few fliers we disagree with is a small price to pay for getting information out about summer programs, sports, etc.

    Also, the flyers are printed and paid for by the organizations in question, and I believe the folders are put together by the PTO or another volunteer group. So a minimum of instructional time and county resources are really used under ideal circumstances.

    The question I have is whether any such program can be adminstrated fairly as it stands. It’s now came out that several times Teachers have refused to submit some non-profits flyers because they disagreed with the organization sponsoring the activity. Especially with organizations like the Boy Scouts becoming increasingly controlled by right wing conservatives, I think that could easily amount to state sponsored religion if government officials (aka teachers) are providing a service to one group which is unavailable to others.

    It’s a slippery slope which can easily lead to the sort of thing you see in Augusta County, where children are taken out of school int he middle of the day for Bible classes, and the rest of the students forced to sit silently or wash blackboards.

    All this said, maybe there are much better ways that parents could be informed about events their children might want to attend? For that matter, this is the electronic age, why not just set up a webpage with a “Community Calendar” parents could access, then have a system by which organizations can post their materials there? Then, make printed materials available by request only (for those without internet).

  • I think any teacher who singles out a particular group’s fliers and refuses to distribute them ought to be disciplined. There’s nothing wrong with the policy (i.e., all groups to be treated equally)–the problem lies with teachers who discriminate among groups (i.e., no atheist/pagan fliers).

    I’m not sure there are better ways to inform parents about events/programs for their children–the Internet is not a good solution for low-income/single-parent families, IMO, or families where the parents are either way passive or way overburdened. An opt-in provision will fail to serve these families well, too. Sadly, the low-tech method of putting the information on paper and putting the paper into an envelope and putting the envelope into the backpack is the best way to ensure that the information reaches parents.

  • I taught in the city schools. We were handed stacks of fliers (definitely fewer than what the County sends home) to pass out to the kids, and the kids themselves put them in their folders. It didn’t take tons and tons of time, but I valued those 10 minutes that went to counting, passing out, and stuffing. I often read them aloud to the class if they were time-sensitive or related to our curriculum.

    It’s a valuable lesson for students to be exposed to differing viewpoints and our varied community, even if just by friday fliers. I would not have read aloud the atheist camp flier, because it’s not about the curriculum or local community. But, I would not have arbitrarily censored it either. Had a kid asked about atheism, I would have explained the definition and offered that many people have different beliefs.

  • Sylvia,

    That sounds like the right approach.

    As for the 10 minutes, that’s good info. Do you have ideas on how information form non-profits could reach parents in a better way that would allow this ten minutes to be used for intructional purposes instead?

    Also, what should the county do about the teachers that refused to distribute slective fliers, and then advertised their disregard of policy on a conservative Blog? Can anything be done here, and if so, then what kind of discipline would be appropriate? Besides that, how do we make sure that this policy is applied fairly?

  • If it is policy in the Alb. County Schools to use classtime to send fliers home, then it’s up to the school board to decide if this is a valuable use of class time as compared to providing a community services non-profit communication. Sure, volunteers could do it, or it could be a student club project. The schools are very useful as an aggregate for community information, and certainly, the fliers are very effective.

    IF we continue to add tons of gravity to this, then I’d encourage the school board to make a firm statement about the policy and back it up with penalties for those who try to undermine the school board. Otherwise, ignore the cowards who feel that hiding fliers and running to blogs will make their voices heard. And, keep sending the fliers home.

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