Jessica Xu, mother of a first-grader in the Darien, Connecticut school system, told the Associated Press the recent letter she received from the superintendent felt “like a punch in the gut.”
“I chose the town for the schools,” she said. “I’m so frustrated the schools don’t want me there.”
Another parent, Terry Steadman, told the school board she was driven to tears.
“To ban parents from the lunchroom, which is effectively what you’re doing with this email, I don’t think it’s right,” she said. “I don’t think it’s in the spirit of a collaborative environment.”
School officials wouldn’t discuss the situation, but Darien Board of Education Chairman Tara Ochman said the high numbers of parents visiting their children during lunch at area elementary schools had become a problem, so officials eliminated the option.
“We believe that schools exist for children, and we work to develop the skills necessary for students to grow into engaged members of society,” Ochman wrote in a prepared statement. “We work every day on this mission so that our students embrace their next steps confidently and respectfully.”
While school leaders in Darien wouldn’t elaborate on why parents in the lunchroom is an issue, special education therapist Kelly Ann Franzese said her experience in nearby Weston schools convinced her that limiting parent visits is ideal.
Students become upset with their parents leave, while school staff feel like they’re being scrutinized, she told the AP.
“From a professional perspective, when we’re the ones left dealing with your child when you leave, it wasn’t good,” Franzese said. “We would call them helicopter moms.”
Most elementary schools determine the rules and policies for parent visits, though area districts told the AP most parents don’t visit because of work or other obligations. In the affluent Darien community Xu estimates six or seven parents ate lunch at her child’s elementary school on a typical day.
And not all parents are opposed to being shut out.
Darien mother Beth Lane told the board of education “it was good because kids have to be able to learn how to work with each other and socialize with each other, and putting a parent in changes the dynamic drastically,” the AP reports.
That certainly seemed to be the case in Escambia County, Florida this week, when a parent visited McArthur Elementary and realized what students were actually served for lunch.
“Yogurt in a bowl with Cinnamon Toast Crunch sprinkled on top, I didn’t see any fruit,” mother Lauren Anderson said. “The green beans were dry and looked like they came out of a can.”
“It’s not a well-balanced meal for a kid that you’re expecting to focus and perform academically in school,” she said.
WEAR compared an image of the “lunch” from Anderson’s visit with the picture posted to the school website, and confronted the district’s director of food service, Jalenna Davis, with the disturbing discrepancy.
Davis defended the sad meal, and alleged it meets the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s guidelines for a nutritious meal.
“I can’t control the photography or the lighting in terms of the green beans and ow they’re coming across in the photo,” Davis said.
Anderson also contacted Davis about the disappointing lunch, but the response wasn’t exactly what she was hoping for.
“She sent me an email and asked me to forward her any recommendations that I may have,” Anderson said. “That was her response.”
Anderson said the whole experience left a bad taste in her mouth.
“After what I saw yesterday, every day she will have a packed lunch,” Anderson said of her daughter.