Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Who has the right to make the decision: The parent or the school?

The day started out like most for Laura Cancio and her family.
She readied her children for school, repeatedly reminding her fourth-grade son to assemble his lunch.

The food was laid out. All he had to do was put it in his bag. But, anxious to play video games during the last few minutes before the family hit the road, the boy forgot.
Cancio realized her son’s mistake only after she dropped him off at Sea Wind Elementary in Hobe Sound.

Hoping to teach him a lesson about responsibility, she decided to let him go without food until he got home at 2:30 p.m.

He had eaten a large breakfast of cereal, fruit and juice. It didn’t seem like a big deal. She sent an e-mail to her son’s teacher:
“Everett forgot to pack his lunch even after several prompts to do so. Please do not provide him with any food. Thank you.”
She got a polite reply, logged off the computer and thought that was that.
But Everett’s teacher forwarded the message to Principal Lawrence Green, who had a different take.

Green responded in an e-mail:
“Mrs. Cancio, although I understand that Everett needs to be more responsible and you would like to teach him this skill, we cannot deny any child a lunch. This would be against the law. We can get him a school lunch and you can reimburse us at a later date.”

When Everett got home, he told his mother the cafeteria gave him a cheese sandwich. He also said a school official told him that what his mom proposed to do was illegal.

Cancio felt undermined.
To her, it boiled down to this question:
“Do I not have the right to make these physical decisions for my child?”

Her encounter illustrates the delicate balance between parental rights and school responsibility. When our children spend so much oftheir day at school, how far should the school go to obey a parent’s wishes?
Despite Green’s e-mail to Cancio, there is no law or Martin County School District policy that dictates whether a school should feed a child in this situation. Green later backed off the claim that not feeding Everett would be illegal.

“It boils down to the administrator, the principal, doing what hethinks is in the best interest of the student,” district spokeswoman Cathy Brennan said.

Green told me he thought he was doing what was best for Everett on that day in December.
“It was my feeling that we needed to feed the child. Research has shown that a child that is nourished is going to perform better,” hesaid.

Who do you feel was right, the mom or the school?

Where should the line be drawn between parents and school?

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