Does a teacher or school have the right to tell a child that they can’t eat something their parent packed for them? Is it ever OK for them to overrule the rights of the parent?
At our school, a few of the teachers have adopted a fresh fruit- or vegetable-only snack policy. While I applaud the idea of teaching our children to pick healthy snacks, this policy is riddled with flaws and elements of irony. As an example, in order to be compliant with the policy, you cannot send dried or canned fruit, it must be fresh. (Disclaimer – I have not been directly impacted by this policy but my friend’s child has, which is why I am aware of it).
Earlier this year, our friend realized that she didn’t have anything fresh to send with her child to school for snack, so she sent dried cranberries. At snack time the teacher told the child he could not eat the snack and would have to sit and watch the other kids while they ate their snacks. As a result, the child was left hungry and faced the challenge of trying to stay focused the rest of the morning before lunch, instead of being refreshed and ready to learn. Isn’t it better for the child to have something in his stomach to help promote focus in the classroom? Aren’t we taught that children do better at school when they are well fed?
Now I don’t think you should be allowed to send just anything for snack, like cookies or other sugar-based snacks, but let’s be reasonable. Healthy is not narrowly-defined and not one-person’s opinion; healthy snacks come in many forms, like a fruit cup or applesauce or whole wheat crackers and hummus, right? With such a restrictive policy, this teacher is spending a disproportionate amount of time as the snack police instead of being the teacher. The teacher actually said she enacted this policy to eliminate the need to “approve” each child’s snack each day as it was taking away from teaching time. It appears that her own policy is not meeting her objectives given the amount of snack approving and denying she is admittedly still doing on a daily basis.
My thought is why put yourself in that position to begin with? Why not send a letter home at the beginning of the year stating that the “snack policy requires a healthy snack and it is strongly encouraged that parents send a fresh fruit or vegetable.” If a student repeatedly brings unhealthy snacks then send the note home again asking the family to follow the policy and then let it go. Parents should be afforded the ultimate decision on what snacks are right for their children and their decisions should be respected until their actions prove otherwise.
It is always my plan to send healthy snacks, but there will be times on a Monday morning when I realize because I couldn’t make it to the store on Sunday and that I am out of fresh snack options. My guess is that I am not alone.
Have you run into policies like this at your school? What do you think, should the snack police be allowed full reign or have they overstepped their jurisdiction?
This post is the first of a new parenting blog I am writing for Girl Power Hour under the title Mommy See.