ASPEN, Colo. – Aspen Elementary School officials want students to be quiet during their 20-minute lunch, and have imposed a new set of rules and penalties for talkative youngsters to keep down cafeteria chatter.
Many parents, however, are speaking up about the policy, which was outlined in a school newsletter that was recently sent home with students. School administrators reportedly told students they must use a 1-inch rule to speak during their lunch, meaning they can only open their mouths one inch to whisper, according to the Aspen Times.
Students and parents also said school administrators, who took over cafeteria duty from teachers this year, are employing whistles when they deem cafeteria noise too loud, and have even forced students to sit in silence as a punishment for their talking ways.
“I was there, about a month ago having lunch with my second-grader when I first noticed the whistle policy,” Whitney Foley, a mother of two students at the school, told the news site. “They are constantly hushing children.”
Foley told the Times her children said school officials took away students’ talking privileges entirely at during one lunch last week. Students were told they could “not even whisper, because the whistle had been blown too many times, so they went to a silent lunch,” she said.
“Lunch is one of their only downtimes in the day,” a parent, who did not want to be identified, told the Times. “You have to sit still in class and be good in class, and lunch is a social time. It’s a whisper-only policy, and they’re very clear about that.”
Parent teacher organization president Alyssa Genshaft said teachers and parents have complained that the policy is over the top.
“I understand that (the principals) don’t want kids running around and throwing food,” she said. “But the kids have only 20 minutes (for their lunch period), and because of that, they’re sort of being punished. All they have is recess and lunchtime, which is a time to let loose so they don’t come back to the classroom wound up.”
“I’m not sure what the message is they’re trying to send,” Genshaft said. “I think there are better tactics.”
School officials told the news site they’re simply trying to promote good behavior during the student lunches, but acknowledged using the whistle on some occasions.
“We want them to have good manners and to talk quietly,” principal Doreen Goldyn said.
The whistles are reserved for “when the children are really too loud and we give them four warnings just to calm them down a little bit,” she said.
The cafeteria noise rules sent to parents stipulate students must “Talk quietly and only when your mouth is empty” and to “talk in a low and calm voice to your neighbors.
“Noise making, shouting and popping bags are unacceptable.”
Genshaft said she plans to address concerns about the quiet lunch policy with school officials, who told the news site they were unaware of any problems.