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Austin Public Schools

Policy 505 - Distribution of Nonschool-Sponsored Materials on School Premises

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The purpose of this policy is to protect the exercise of students’, employees’, and members of the public’s free speech rights, taking into consideration the educational objectives and responsibilities of the school district.


  • The school district recognizes that students, employees and members of the public have the right to express themselves on school property. This protection includes the right to distribute, at a reasonable time and place and in a reasonable manner, nonschool-sponsored material.
  • To protect First Amendment rights, while at the same time preserving the integrity of the educational objectives and responsibilities of the school district, the school board adopts the following regulations and procedures regarding distribution of nonschool-sponsored material on school property and at school activities.


  • “Distribute” or “Distribution” means circulation or dissemination of material by means of handing out free copies, selling or offering copies for sale, accepting donations for copies, posting or displaying material, or placing material in internal staff or student mailboxes.
  • “Nonschool-sponsored material” or “unofficial material” includes all materials or objects intended for distribution, except school newspapers, employee newsletters, literary magazines, yearbooks and other publications funded and/or sponsored or authorized by the school. Examples of nonschool-sponsored materials include but are not limited to leaflets, brochures, buttons, badges, flyers, petitions, posters, and underground newspapers whether written by students or employees or others, and tangible objects.
  • “Obscene to minors” means:
    • The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the material, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest of minors of the age to whom distribution is requested;
    • The material depicts or describes, in a manner that is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community concerning how such conduct should be presented to minors of the age to whom distribution is requested, sexual conduct such as intimate sexual acts (normal or perverted), masturbation, excretory functions, or lewd exhibition of the genitals; and
    • The material, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.
  • “Minor” means any person under the age of eighteen (18).
  • “Material and substantial disruption” of a normal school activity means:
    • Where the normal school activity is an educational program of the district for which student attendance is compulsory, “material and substantial disruption” is defined as any disruption which interferes with or impedes the implementation of that program.
    • Where the normal school activity is voluntary in nature (including, without limitation, school athletic events, school plays and concerts, and lunch periods) “material and substantial disruption” is defined as student rioting, unlawful seizures of property, conduct inappropriate to the event, participation in a school boycott, demonstration, sit-in, stand-in, walk-out, or other related forms of activity.
  • In order for expression to be considered disruptive, there must exist specific facts upon which the likelihood of disruption can be forecast, including past experience in the school, current events influencing student activities and behavior, and instances of actual or threatened disruption relating to the written material in question.
  • School activities” means any activity sponsored by the school including, but not" limited to, classroom work, library activities, physical education classes, official assemblies and other similar gatherings, school athletic contests, band concerts, school plays and other theatrical productions, and in-school lunch periods.
  • “Libelous” is a false and unprivileged statement about a specific individual that tends to harm the individual’s reputation or to lower that individual in the esteem of the community.


  • Students, members of the public, and employees of the school district have the right to distribute, at reasonable times and places as set forth in this policy, and in a reasonable manner, nonschool-sponsored material.
  • Requests for distribution of nonschool-sponsored material will be reviewed by the administration on a case-by-case basis. However, distribution of the materials listed below is always prohibited. Material is prohibited that:
    • is obscene to minors;
    • is libelous or slanderous;
    • is pervasively indecent or vulgar or contains any indecent or vulgar language or representations, with a determination made as to the appropriateness of the material for the age level of students to which it is intended;
    • advertises or promotes any product or service not permitted to minors by law;
    • advocates violence or other illegal conduct;
    • constitutes insulting or fighting words, the very expression of which injures or harasses other people (e.g., threats of violence, defamation of character or of a person’s race, religious or ethnic origin);
    • presents a clear and present likelihood that, either because of its content or the manner of distribution, it will cause a material and substantial disruption of the proper and orderly operation and discipline of the school or school activities, will cause the commission of unlawful acts or the violation of lawful school regulations;
    • is considered campaign material. School facilities (including teachers’ mailboxes in the buildings) are not to be used by candidates for public office or their adherents to distribute campaign materials in their behalf. Solicitation of campaign funds in school buildings in behalf of candidates is also prohibited.
  • Distribution by students, employees and members of the public of nonschool-sponsored materials on school district property are subject to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions set forth below. In making decisions regarding the time, place, and manner of distribution, the administration will consider factors including, but not limited to, the following:
    • whether the material is educationally related; or services the students in the community including recreation, health, culture or civic which is for the betterment of the community;
    • the extent to which distribution is likely to cause disruption of or interference with the school district’s educational objectives, discipline, or school activities;
    • whether the materials can be distributed from the office or other isolated location so as to minimize disruption of traffic flow in hallways;
    • the quantity or size of materials to be distributed; 5. whether distribution would require assignment of school district staff, use of school district equipment, or other resources;
    • whether distribution would require that nonschool persons be present on the school grounds;
    • whether the materials are a solicitation for goods or services not requested by the recipients;
    • whether the materials advocate a particular religion.
  • Distribution by a commercial firm of free materials pertaining to an instructional program will be permitted in any school building or on any school district grounds in the system with the specific permission of the Superintendent of Schools.


  • No nonschool-sponsored material shall be distributed during and at the place of a normal school activity if it is reasonably likely to cause a material and substantial disruption of that activity.
  • Distribution of nonschool-sponsored material is prohibited when it blocks the safe flow of traffic within corridors and entrance ways of the school, and school parking lots. Distribution shall not impede entrance to or exit from school premises in any way.
  • No one shall coerce a student or staff member to accept any publication.
  • The time, place, and manner of distribution will be solely within the discretion of the administration, consistent with the provisions of this policy.


  • Any student, employee, or member of the public wishing to distribute (as defined in this policy) nonschool-sponsored material must first submit for approval a copy of the material to the Director of Human Resources at least 24 hours in advance of desired distribution time, together with the following information:
    • Name and phone number of the person submitting the request and, if a student, the room number of his or her first-period class.
    • Date(s) and time(s) of day intended for distribution.
    • Location where material will be distributed.
    • If intended for students, the grade(s) of students to whom the distribution is intended.
  • Within one school day, the Director of Human Resources will review the request and render a decision. In the event that permission to distribute the material is denied or limited, the person submitting the request should be informed in writing of the reasons for the denial or limitation.
  • If the person submitting the request does not receive a response within one school day, the person shall contact the Human Resources office to verify that the lack of response was not due to an inability to locate the person.
  • If the person is dissatisfied with the decision of the principal, the person may submit a written request for appeal to the superintendent. If the person does not receive a response within three (3) school days (not counting Saturdays, Sundays and holidays) of submitting the appeal, the person shall contact the office of the Superintendent to verify that the lack of response is not due to an inability to locate the person.
  • Permission or denial of permission to distribute material does not imply approval or disapproval of its contents by either the school, the administration of the school, the school board, or the individual reviewing the material submitted.


  • Distribution by any student of nonschool-sponsored material prohibited herein or in violation of the provisions of time, place and manner of distribution as described above will be halted and disciplinary action will be taken in accordance with the school district’s Student Discipline Policy.
  • Distribution by any employee of nonschool-sponsored material prohibited herein or in violation of the provisions of time, place and manner of distribution as described above will be halted and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken, in accordance with any individual contract, collective bargaining agreement, school district policies and procedures, and/or governing statute.
  • Any other party violating this policy will be requested to leave the school property immediately and, if necessary, the police will be called.


A copy of this policy will be posted on the district website and in school buildings.

Legal References:

  • U. S. Const., amend. I
  • Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260, 108 S.Ct. 562, 98 L.Ed.2d 592 (1988)
  • Bethel Sch. Dist. No. 403 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675, 106 S.Ct. 3159, 92 L.Ed.2d 549 (1986)
  • Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503, 89 S.Ct. 733, 21 L.Ed.2d 731 (1969)
  • Bystrom v. Fridley High School, 822 F.2d 747 (8th Cir. 1986)
  • Victory Through Jesus Sports Ministry Foundation v. Lee’s Summit R-7 School Dist., 640 F.3d 329 8th Cir. (2011), cert. denied ___U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 592 (2011)

Policy Adopted: 12/12/05
Policy Updated: 11/13/13
Policy Updated: 7/13/15
Policy Updated: 6/11/18
Policy Reviewed: 3/8/21