Involved parents and quality time are both important. But is there a point where it goes too far?
As Fox 8 News reports, school administrators in wealthy Darien, Connecticut have ended a policy that allowed parents to join their children for lunch in the school cafeteria. The district says that so many parents were attending lunch that it was affecting their ability to run the school.
However, the announcement created controversy among local parents, many of whom were outraged that they could no longer have lunch with their children. Jessica Xu, mother of a first-grader at a Darien school, told the Associated Press:
“It feels like a punch in the gut. I chose the town for the schools. I’m so frustrated the schools don’t want me there.”
Parents say that having lunch with their kids gives them the chance to see how their children are doing during the school day. They can also help the youngest ones with practical things, like opening their milk.
Terry Steadman told the Associated Press that she teared up when she heard the news:
“To just ban parents from the lunchroom, which is effectively what you’re doing with this email, I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it’s in the spirit of a collaborative environment.”
Xu says she routinely saw six or seven parents joining their kids for lunch on any given day, and administrators say some parents were coming on a weekly basis.
Many parents disagreed that the practice was disruptive. One parent told Fox 61 News, “It’s sad because you can’t go in and have lunch with your little ones.” And another took issue with the argument that parents need to let children be on their own by the time they get to school:
“I kind of disagree with that because they will be on their own at some point in their lives and I think when they’re young they need to share a lot of things, just like riding in a car with you.”
Tara Ochman, Chair of the Darien Board of Education, told Fox 61 that they began re-evaluating the policy when they were approached by elementary school principals about the disruption it caused:
“Our children’s safety is a top priority, and knowing who is in the building, for what reason, and with what supervision, is a reality that indicts no one, but is done for the benefit everyone.”
Though the school did not elaborate on the factors that led to their decision, some teachers have criticized the effect of parent lunches. One former middle school teacher from Weston, Connecticut told the Associated Press:
“From a professional perspective, when we’re the ones left dealing with your child when you leave, it wasn’t good. We would call them helicopter moms.”
Another Connecticut teacher told the Atlantic that the parent lunches aren’t automatically a problem, but can cause issues at school:
“The parents would bring pizza for some students and not others. It became a little bit of a circus and I do remember feeling like it was disruptive instead of being just a sweet lunch between just the mom and the kid. I think she was using lunch to try to buy her daughter friends.”
Online, many people agreed that the lunches are a form of helicopter parenting, with some saying the offended parents need to, “cut the cord.”
Others, however, thought it was a shame that parents were now banned from the cafeteria.
In the end, many felt that it was up to the school to decide how best to manage the students’ day. As one teacher told Fox 61:
“Perhaps it’s for security. Perhaps it’s for the idea that these younger, growing children need to become more independent and not reliant on their parents.”