Bear with me today, I’m going to take a detour from our regularly scheduled programming, because this struck a nerve. Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I received the following email from our daughters’ elementary school:
In keeping with current practices designed to protect the health and safety of all children, elementary students in Loudoun County Public Schools are not permitted to distribute candy or other food items to classmates. As Valentine’s Day approaches, it is important for parents to understand that candy brought to school by students, including candy attached to Valentine’s Day cards, will be returned to the parent.
Perhaps it was this way last year, too, but I don’t recall getting a strongly worded notice before the holiday. My reaction was “are you kidding me?!” followed with wondering if there was anything I could do to change this. Or at least make my voice heard.
Trust me, I understand that the intent behind this is to protect the students that have food allergies…but as parents we are informed at the beginning of the year if our child is in a classroom with a student that needs to be protected. In our tight knit community, I’m sure we could handle sending in appropriate treats that wouldn’t be a danger. (We manage to make it through lunch every day without incident.)
The candy at Valentine’s day issue is not the whole problem, unfortunately. We can’t send in treats for our child’s birthday. We can’t have a Christmas party, it’s a holiday party. The Halloween parade in the school is now a ‘spirit parade’ with themed costumes… (I think my middle schoolers dressed up as “math nerds”?) Most disturbing to me is that the time honored tradition of Field Day now awards ‘participation ribbons’. There is no first, second, or third place. On American Education Week, we are ‘strongly encouraged’ to show up at pre-assigned times for scheduled performances…just dropping in to observe our child’s classroom in action would be too disruptive, and is discouraged.
I don’t think that school administrators or school boards have malicious intent, but they have stripped so much of the fun of childhood out of the elementary school experience. I can promise you that my life wasn’t ruined, nor did I need therapy, when I didn’t win first prize in the water balloon toss. I sure as hell remember getting first place in the three -legged race, though, and those ribbons are in my scrapbook. And I remember my class parties from elementary school…we all knew what it meant if a boy gave you a small box of chocolates instead of a lollipop with your card! (The teasing was good natured, I assure you!)
Each of these smaller policies are not such a big deal when taken individually, but add them all together and we’ve chipped away at the experience that helps shape these little people into who they will become as adults. At what point do we stand up and say, enough already?