Skip to main content

When is an ad more than an ad?

11/20/2013 01:58PM, Published by ACL, Categories: Schools



Everyone agrees that advertising is part of life. Students, in particular, are bombarded with commercial messages every day. 

Last year, the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District decided to jump in and accept advertising as a way to boost district revenues and fund major projects. Everyone on the school board and in the administration thought this was a good idea. But the policy has proven to be a minefield. On Monday night, the school board wrestled for the third time with what kinds of advertising can be allowed.

When it comes to naming a stadium or putting a huge ad on a school scoreboard, there needs to be careful, prolonged discussion. But selling a 2-by-2 ad inside a playbill, for instance, seems to be a fairly non-controversial thing. 

Not when policies get involved.

The Commercialism in Schools policy, No. 913.1, which was adopted by the district in 2003 and updated in 2012, states the obvious, such as rejecting ads that promote violence, disparage ethnic groups, violate the rights of others, and so on. But it also prohibits advertising that “promotes” gambling, alcohol, tobacco, political candidates or parties, products or services which advocate the use of drugs, firearms, adult-themed entertainment, and religion or religious organizations.

You can follow those restrictions right down the rabbit hole. What does “promote” mean? Can ads from Wawa be accepted, since they sell tobacco products? Can ads from a local church be accepted, since they promote religion? Can a beverage distributor advertise, since a large part of their business is selling beer? Can a restaurant advertise, since they serve alcohol? Can Walmart advertise, since they sell guns? If you eliminate any possibility of crossing the line on these restrictions, there's really nobody left who can advertise. 

The board and administration have been chasing these details for months, and they seem no closer to agreement on what to do. As written, the policy states that all advertising “shall be reviewed by the superintendent or his/her designee,” meaning that superintendent John Sanville or his staff will be responsible for vetting every little ad placed in every school publication. That kind of micro-managing is a bit excessive. Anyone who has worked with students and parents knows that ads come in last-minute. Either things are going to be missed, or the superintendent's office is going to have to appoint a full-time ad checker who can respond at the 11th hour as the playbill is going to press.

When three new board members arrive in Unionville-Chadds Ford next month, let's hope that somebody can solve this issue.


Like what you're reading? Subscribe to Chester County's free newsletter to catch every headline



unionville-chadds ford school district advertising advertisement commercialism in schools policy


  • Best Summer Kids Camps in Chester County!

    04/23/2017
    09:00AM — 12:30PM

    2017 SUMMER KIDS HALF-DAY CAMP IN CHESTER SPRINGS, CHESTER COUNTY: One Week of Half-Day Art & C...


  • Annual Wildflower Celebration

    04/23/2017
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    Join Mt. Cuba Center on Sunday, April 23 to enjoy a magnificent display of spring wildflowers at ...


  • Dinosaur Revolution

    04/23/2017
    12:00PM — 04:30PM

    Uncover facts and fossils about dinosaurs in Dinosaur Revolution, an interactive learning experie...


  • 2017 Blessing of the Animals

    04/23/2017
    02:00PM — 04:00PM

    All pets and their people (or animal lovers without pets) are welcome at the 5th annual Blessing ...


  • Liberty Wind Symphony

    04/23/2017
    03:00PM — 04:00PM

    West Chester University presents a liberty wind symphony directed by Andrew Yozviak.


  • Great pottery class for 9 to 12 year olds. Register now to reserve you place in the class! Fun...


  • I And You

    04/23/2017
    07:30PM — 09:30PM

    I and You By Lauren Gunderson Directed by Samantha Reading March 29-April 23, 2017 Steinbrigh...


  • The Honorable Maid

    04/23/2017
    07:30PM — 08:30PM

    "The Honorable Maid" By Carlo Goldoni. Translated and adapted by John Bellomo. Follow the plight...


  • Best Summer Kids Camps in Chester County!

    04/27/2017
    09:00AM — 12:30PM

    2017 SUMMER KIDS HALF-DAY CAMP IN CHESTER SPRINGS, CHESTER COUNTY: One Week of Half-Day Art & C...


  • Dinosaur Revolution

    04/27/2017
    09:30AM — 04:30PM

    Uncover facts and fossils about dinosaurs in Dinosaur Revolution, an interactive learning experie...


  • Clutterers Anonymous

    04/27/2017
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Clutterers Anonymous℠ (CLA℠) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strengt...


  • This free college financial planning seminar will educate you on the ins and outs of financial ai...


  • Spring Choral Festival

    04/27/2017
    08:15PM — 09:15PM

    West Chester University presents a spring choral festival directed by David P. DeVenney and Ryan ...


Chester County High School Sports