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November 13. 2012 10:30PM

Manchester board OK's ads in school

MANCHESTER - The Board of School Committee has approved a new advertising policy, opening the door to ads in gyms, cafeterias and elsewhere, subject to restrictions and the superintendent's review.

The board voted unanimously on Tuesday to support the recommendation of the Coordination Committee to enact the policy.

There was little debate about approving the policy, which was discussed extensively in committee. The director of a youth media organization, Rona Zlokower, however, did raise concerns about the susceptibility of children to advertising.

"The commercialization of our school environment must be approached with thoughtfulness and sensitivity to what our children take home at the end of the school day," Zlokower told the board during the public comment period of the meeting. "Will it be a slogan for sugar-sweetened beverages, or will it be their grasp of the U.S. Constitution, the solar system and algebra?"

Zlokower said she wasn't opposed to Manchester's policy, which she called "thoughtful," but she said media education could mitigate the negative effects of advertising, a task her organization, Media Power Youth, could assist with.

The board did approve a measure to have the Curriculum and Instruction Committee examine how media education might be incorporated into the advertising program.

Compared to other districts, Manchester's advertising policy is exceptionally broad, allowing ads in a wide range of venues - from cafeterias, to hallways and athletic fields, and in video and audio form.

The policy does, however, place limits on the ads' content. Any advertising would have to be in keeping with "contemporary standards of good taste," according to the policy, and all advertising agreements would have to be approved by the superintendent, as well as the school board.

The policy specifically bars advertising that promotes "tobacco, alcohol, illegal drugs, gambling or weapons," contains "obscene or sexually explicit language," or that advances "any religious or political organization and/or message" or candidate for elected office.

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Ted Siefer may be reached at tsiefer@unionleader.com.


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