Is It Illegal To Sell Stuff At School In The US?

is it illegal to sell stuff at school
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Is it Illegal to Sell Stuff at School

Schools in the US are highly structured systems that have been successfully operating for many years and are responsible for shaping great minds, making a great impact on the lives of students and society at large.

This is achieved by helping young lads become more knowledgeable by providing specialized academic disciplines and creating a path for them to decide which areas they would like to specialize in the future.

There is no doubt that the educational standard in the US ensures discipline and self-reliance for every student. In fact, studies show that some of the curricula in US education are meant to imbibe certain values and knowledge, including; 

  • Non-academic values, norms, beliefs, and attitudes.
  • Discipline, order, teamwork.
  • Skills thought necessary to assist students in fitting into modern society.
  • Learning how to thrive in the larger work-a-day society.

Interestingly, when it comes to learning how to thrive in the larger workday society, what comes to the minds of some of these younglings is finding a means to make little extra stipends that can settle their minor needs without having to bother their parents.

One easy way to do this is getting a part-time job or selling stuff at school for their fellow students to buy. 

American society largely encourages part-time jobs for young students as it teaches them to be self-reliant and learn how to survive after school. However, the entrepreneurial spark comes to life earlier in some young students than others. 

The issue of legality when it comes to selling in school is heavily dependent on the motive, circumstances and policies of the school when it comes to selling.

Many school managements frown upon the concept of selling on school premises because of the many possible dangers that could occur as a result.

Issues like students arguing or fighting over dissatisfaction with goods sold or complainants of extortion in terms of prices from sellers to buyers. Other more severe issues like drug circulation to students could also come into play and cause major issues within the school system. 

Worse, if a student falls sick from some food poisoning from a product sold by a student or suffers some kind of health challenge, it could cause a major blowback for the school with parents unwilling to listen to any excuses and may probably lead to lawsuits and other issues. 

With these in mind, schools tend to be very strict with what happens on school premises as they are completely responsible for all the students during school hours. 

The truth is, selling candies, snacks, food items, or anything else for that matter at school is not a criminal offence, so no one will be sent to jail. However, if the school authority finds out, they may find ways to prosecute or punish the student based on their principles. Especially if it directly affects the school’s code of conduct or ethics. 

There was once a story of a young boy named Nicholas. Like everyone else, at the end of the 1st grade, he had the honor to become a member of the Young Pioneers, a mass youth organization run by the school. However, in the middle of the 2nd grade, his membership in the Young Pioneers was invalidated.

Why? He was caught selling candies at school.

He would buy the candies from a small shop close to his house, where he quickly realized that when he buys in large quantities, he gets a big discount.

So he would save up his pocket money and buy lots of candy and then sell them to his schoolmates at a regular price but slightly cheaper than what they could buy at the local shops and even offered small discounts to those who bought more than three pieces. 

Interesting right? Well, while it wasn’t a criminal offence, the school found a way to punish him by removing him from a prestigious school club and in some situations, schools may go as far as suspension or expulsion. 

The question still remains if it is illegal to sell at school, so here’s some more insight into the matter; 

Food in US public schools is provided and funded by the US government through the Department of Agriculture. The food provided strictly follows pre-designed food pyramid structures and nutritional guidelines developed by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

This basically means that the federal government decides how children’s nutrition should be handled when they are in school.

Food items like milk are always available because the government tries to patronize and support dairy farmers by buying their milk which also has to be put to good use and therefore finds its way into schools for children to consume.

Other food items like corn are also on the list based on governments’ efforts to support agriculture and farming. 

This controlled nutrition is also why you won’t see Coke, Pepsi and energy drinks in the vending machines at schools because the government wants children to stay sharp and focused and also avoid the extremely high energy levels that sugar can cause. 

This is one of the many reasons why selling unhealthy candies, and other unauthorized food items may be a problem if you are caught, as there is a high control rate for what students consume and anything outside the control of the school or the government will be frowned on. 

There are, however, a few things you can sell legally in school without necessarily getting in trouble, especially if you do not do it commercially or consistently for a long time. 

  • Pencils
  • Design paper 
  • T-shirts 
  • Books

Selling in school can be like espionage, especially if your school has strict policies about selling; therefore, you should avoid getting caught up in any issues that may lead to punishments.

Also, all that hide and seek may be unnecessary and stressful and could end up getting you into trouble. Remember that the purpose of school is one thing and one thing only; to learn. Anything that affects or distracts learning will eventually become counterproductive.

If you, however, choose to sell stuff in school, make sure you check with school authorities to ensure that your products are approved and safe for consumption.

If you feel unsettled about talking with the authorities, then you probably should not sell in the first place. 


It’s great to have an entrepreneurial spirit. However, make sure to polish it properly before venturing out and also know that rules exist to keep you safe and teach morality at the same time, so follow the rules, and one day, you will become a great entrepreneur if you eventually choose to walk that path.

Also learn how to balance school and work.

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