Ontario school district says “No thanks, TD Bank!”

by: 

David Monahan

The York Region District School Board in Ontario, Canada recently turned down a supply of a children’s book provided by TD Bank, because each copy featured prominent bank branding in violation of district policies and procedures which prohibit corporate advertising in school materials. We applaud the Board for enforcing the policy and protecting children from corporate advertising!

It’s the policy of the York Region District to “allow for the dissemination of information from non-profit external organizations, which is in alignment with Board priorities and mission, vision and values.” District procedures prohibit distribution of “materials in which logos or messages of political or for-profit organizations appear.”

The district recently received 9,000 copies of the book Mr. Zinger’s Hat, a story that celebrates the magic of storytelling, written by award-winning author Carey Fagan and illustrated by Dusan Petricic. They were intended for distribution to first graders in 175 district schools. The books were provided by the bank through a program coordinated by the non-profit Canadian Children’s Book Centre. TD Bank had complied with a district request to remove TD Bank insignias from the book covers, but on the first page of each book they printed a greeting from the bank’s CEO, on bank letterhead, with the TD Bank insignia. The district was dismayed, because they had been very clear that district policies and procedures prohibit accepting books with corporate branding.

Families in the district were understandably disappointed that the books would not end up where they belonged—in the hands of eager young readers—and some took issue with the District’s decision to adhere to the policy. But the District did the right thing. The policy is in place for a reason—to protect children from the influence of marketing and protect the integrity of the educational environment. First graders are way too young to understand the persuasive influence of advertising, and seeing any ad in a book provided by the school gives the impression that the school endorses that company.

“We would not approve a book with a logo on it regardless of where the logo is,” said Licinio Miguelo, senior manager of corporate communications for the York Region District School Board. “It’s not the book that we’re not approving,” said Miguelo. “It’s the fact that it’s a message from a private corporation… Our schools are not advertising mediums for corporations.”

It’s encouraging to see the York board insist on compliance with this important policy. Contrast that with the Minneapolis school which recently ignored a similar policy and turned an assembly for grades three through five into a student-filled promotion for the new film, Goosebumps.

If the York board wanted to accept the books, TD Bank should have offered them with no strings attached—including no advertisements on the books. Let’s hope the bank does the right thing to rectify this situation: provide a new batch of books which comply with the district policy, containing just the words and pictures of Fagan and Petricic, and not a letter from the bank CEO.

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