NASSP members have often expressed concern about a school’s obligations regarding mail addressed to students and delivered to the school. Some of this mail is personal in the sense of being responsive to student requests for college information or scholarship aid, but the larger part is commercial solicitation sent in bulk by other than first-class mail or by programs recruiting student participation.

D042.5.2 of the U. S. Postal Service Domestic Mail Manual states that mail addressed to a person at a hotel, school, or similar place is delivered to the hotel, school, etc. If the addressee is no longer at that address, the mail must be redirected to the current address, if known, or endorsed appropriately, that is marked “Refused” and returned by the institution to the post office.

The U.S. Postal Service has advised:

  • A school may refuse to accept letters addressed to students in care of the school. If it elects to do so, it should mark “REFUSED” on the envelope and return it by placing it in a mailbox or mailbag for return to the post office.
  • Since mail delivered to the school is regarded as belonging to the recipient school, one sample of a mass mailing addressed to students may be opened and, if it does not pertain to school business, all of it maybe placed in one container, marked “REFUSED” and returned to the post office, which will return it to the sender. While refusal of mail should usually be made at the time of delivery, the Service recognizes the impracticality of such a demand in the case of deliveries of large amounts of mail to an institution. It, therefore, permits refusal of mail when it is sorted, except for “accountable” mail, that is registered, certified, or insured, which must be signed for when received.
  • Because federal law provides criminal penalties for obstruction of correspondence (Title 18, Section 1702), intentional discarding of mail, even if delivered in mass distribution categories, is not recommended.
  • Finally, as recipient of mail delivered to the school, the school’s assigned staff may choose to accept some mail addressed to students and refuse other mail. If accepted, however, it must make a good faith effort to see that the mail is delivered to the student addressee.