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School board revises distribution policy

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The Delta County School Board has revised the policy that opened the door for religious materials to be distributed in the schools.

The revised policy maintains the school district's non-discriminatory stance, instead targeting the amount of non-curricular material that will be permitted.

Materials that are advertising an event or activity to which students are invited must be confined to an 8.5 x 11-inch flyer.

All other materials which are acceptable under the policy may be viewed electronically on the school district's website, but may not exceed three pages in length.

That will put an end to the distribution of Gideon Bibles, which occurred districtwide last winter, as well as the atheist/freethinking brochures that were then allowed under the non-discriminatory policy. All dissemination will be restricted to the three-page limit.

The details of electronic access are being handled by the school district's administrative team. The system that's already in place in Montrose and Mesa county school districts will serve as a starting point.

The policy revisions have been under discussion for the past six months. At the August school board meeting, the revised policy was adopted by a 3-2 vote. Pete Blair and Ron Germann voted against the changes; Jill Jurca, Jan Tuin and Tammy Smith were in favor.

"I support the board's decision," Blair said following the meeting. "I just think it's going to be harder to get information out to our parents and students."

The turmoil over the distribution of religious materials in schools certainly detracted from the district's primary focus, but Blair said he believes the new policy amounts to "overkill."

"The old policy should have been tweaked a bit," he agreed, but he believes it's impossible for any public school district to avoid controversy. "Now we're overregulating."

At a work session held prior to the vote, school board members spent a great deal of time discussing how the policy will be implemented.

"I had no problem with the old policy," Tammy Smith, school board president, said this week. "I'm a firm believer that everybody has a right to their opinion and their beliefs, but in this day and age this [electronic] is a better way to go. I didn't vote to change the policy because of anything that happened."

As before, all material must be approved by the school superintendent or building principal. Material that is obscene, vulgar, or patently offensive is prohibited. The flyers can not be used to advertise a product or a service, nor can they be "inconsistent with or unrelated to the district's mission and educational values."

By confining the flyer to a simple announcement of upcoming activities, from a church's after-school program to peewee wrestling, the policy also removes school staff from the registration process. "The school doesn't need to handle the paperwork," Smith said.

Superintendent Caryn Gibson said the district's technology department is creating a "community" tab on the school district website, www.deltaschools.com, where approved non-curricular material will be available.

"If it fits within our policy, an organization will be able to send us information that can be uploaded onto the school district website. Parents and students will have the option of opening that link," she said.

The policy, KHC and its administrative directive, KHC-R, can be viewed on the school district website under the school board tab.

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