The New Jersey Department of Education proposed four pages of new rules this month pertaining to a law signed earlier this year that allows school districts to sell advertising space on the outside of school buses as a way to counter act rising fuel prices.
The four new sections outline specifications for ads on school buses, how school boards must go about contracting with media companies to erect the ads, limitations on ad content, and annual reporting requirements for the ads. The proposed regulations would amend existing rules for how student transportation services are performed throughout the state, which were last updated in May 2010.
Prior to the signing of Assembly Bill 1637 by Gov. Chris Christie in January, school districts were prohibited from entering contract agreements to sell ads on buses. In addition to charging the Department of Education with creating the new rules, participating school districts must use 50 percent of the ad revenue to offset school bus fuel costs, with the other half of incoming funds to be used at the discretion of school boards to support education-related programs.
A spokesperson at the state Department of Education said the proposed rules still must be enacted into law.
“They’re wrestling with exactly what was meant by the law and what’s included in it. That’s how regulations go, especially when you get into areas of subjectivity,” the spokesperson said. The New Jersey School Bus Operators Association is one of the organizations that opposed the law. Then, in March, NASDPTS published a position paper that also opposes school bus advertising nationwide.
She added that she, personally, had heard of few additional complaints at this writing about aside from several comments from around the state when the law passed that ads on school buses are inappropriate and potentially unsafe to students.
Highlights of the proposed rule include the allowable locations of the ads, which shall be erected on the exterior sides of the bus between the front- and rear-wheel wells. The ads must also be below, but not touching, the floor-level rub rail and above, but not touching, the skirt-level rub rail. If there is no skirt-level rub rail on the bus, the ad should be located at the bottom of the skirt. The ads must also be a minimum of three inches from any required lettering, lamp, wheel well, reflector, or emergency exit.
The ads themselves must also be of “durable material and be of a smooth surface,” and no brakets or hardware are allowed on the bus to hold the ads in place.
Another key provision gives local boards of education the right to refuse any ad content deemed inappropriate, such as messages considered to be: false or misleading; obscene or vulgar in nature; promoting unlawful or illegal goods, services or activities; promoting gambling, alcohol or tobacco, or; are sexual or violent in nature. Additionally, no ads can resemble a traffic control device; declare or imply an endorsement by the board of education, or; are political, religious, issues-related or otherwise controversial in nature.
School districts must also submit reports to the Department of Education no later than June 30 each year that lists the number of buses with ads, the length of time the ads have been on the buses and the total revenue received by the district.