For background, here's a post on our message boards about this topic.  And here's a story from Minnesota about one school board making this poor decision.  And a follow-up from same paper on the after-effects to date.

The real failing here is equating the local school PTO with the local karate school or the Church down the street from the school. That's hogwash.



What's happening is that several fair lawsuits have been filed (it's an organized effort from a church-based organization) demanding equal access at public schools to the Backpack Express for outside groups.  The argument is (and I agree with it) that if the school sends home flyers for the Karate School or (more controversially) the local Prayer Club, then it also has to send home flyers for any other business in town and any Church function at all (say, for example, the national agnostic club). 

In many cases, these lawsuits demanding equal access have worked. So what do local school boards do?  They ban all "outside" organizations from using the backpack express in order to avoid the issue altogether.  The real problem -- and it's ridiculous -- is that these Boards don't take the time or thought to see that PTOs and PTAs aren't the same as the karate club or local Church.  A well-working parent group is an essential part of a well-working school.  Research and common sense both support this.

All it would take is a more nuanced policy statement like: "...school communication channels won't be used, except by the school or organizations directly related to the school and the school's work, like the school parent-teacher organization and the school athletics booster club."  Something like that.

Too often, School Boards think themselves above worrying about "little" things like the under-appreciated value of a well-working parent group.  While they're debating budgets and teacher contracts and new Superintendant hires, they forget that seemingly simple decisions can have far-reaching effects on the real everyday goings-on at their schools.  I suspect that's what's happening in these cases.  The policy is being set and hugely impacting parent groups without parent groups being consulted or considered.

These legal challenges to typical Backpack Express openness are going to continue.  If they come to your town, very important that you make the case early and loudly that all "groups" in this discussion aren't created equal.  Your parent group is *part* of the school process. We have to get that message across.

End Rant.

On a calmer note, if your group is facing this challenge (and/or if you're trying to save money and/or if you're trying to save some trees), email is finally becoming a real viable communications solution for PTOs and PTAs.  Our new Parent Express Email offering is free and makes managing your parent email list and sending customized, professional-looking emails simple.  Check out our Parent Express Email solution here.