Bill to restrict school ads in Mass. off the agenda, but junk food ban advances

Rep. Peter J. Koutoujian, Democrat from Waltham, sponsored bills to ban advertising and junk food in schools.

A bill that would have put Massachusetts in the lead in removing advertising from schools has been put aside for this legislative session.

Rep. Peter J. Koutoujian, D-Waltham, sponsor of the bill, has been trying for years to ban ads in schools. Here is what he had to say about the bill, in a letter to the Boston Globe:

I WAS alarmed to read the story of the Idaho teacher who struck a sponsorship deal with a local pizza shop (“Enterprising teacher sells ads on tests,” Business, March 26). It is not surprising that teachers and schools are looking to advertisers to supplement shrinking school budgets. But to call this teacher “enterprising” is to endorse this kind of behavior, behavior that has proved to have negative effects on children’s ability to learn. It’s important to recognize that selling our students to the highest bidder merely substitutes one problem for another.

Advertising is a factor in many of the most pressing problems facing children, including childhood obesity, eating disorders, youth violence, and precocious sexuality. Advertising in schools exploits a captive audience of students by making exposure to commercial messages compulsory, even for children of parents who go to great lengths to shield their children from ads.

That’s why I’ve introduced legislation that would make Massachusetts the first state to ban all advertising on school grounds. Given the unprecedented marketing blitz that today’s children are exposed to, it is more important than ever to make our classrooms a commercial-free haven for children.

Members of the Joint Committee on Education, in an executive session on March 9, sent the bills to a study, effectively saying they didn’t plan to move the bills out of committee.

However, in a big step forward, a bill Koutoujian sponsored that would ban the sale of sugary drinks and junk food in schools has passed both the House and the Senate. Koutoujian has been working for a decade to get junk food out of the schools. Read a Globe column about the bill here.

What’s wrong with marketing in schools? Read here.

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