Another Exclusion for Parents of FCPS Students
On August 25, 2015, subscribers to Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) “Find Out First” notifications, received one titled: Bringing Food to School.
Parents were lead to believe Wellness Regulation 400-82 was being amended to “comply” with state and federal law.
What we were told was: “For health and safety reasons, parents/visitors are only permitted to bring in food that is intended for consumption by their individual student. For health and safety reasons, students are only permitted to bring in food for personal consumption.”
Let’s be clear, state and federal law on food consumption and safety leaves control completely within the discretion of individual school systems. FCPS makes its own such regulations and policies; as it should. Problem #1, we weren’t asked to participate in amending said regulation.
The federal government requires – under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 – that parents participate in the composing and amending of any such school policy. Under Section 204 Local School Wellness Policy Implementation – Section 9A Local School Wellness Policy (b) Guidelines (3) "a requirement that the local education agency permit parents, students, representatives of the school food authority, teachers of physical education, school health professionals, the school board, school administrators, and the general public to participate in the development, implementation and periodic review and update of the local school wellness policy;" [emphasis added].
Let’s further be clear, none of the “required” participants participated.
When seeking clarification from FCPS as to when “parents” and the “public” were invited to participate I was informed:
“Ms. Lori Kurtyka is a parent and PTA representative who sits on the School Health Council which is responsible for updating the wellness policy. Ms. Kurtyka also participates in the county PTA and informed them of the regulation. She provided the Council with feedback from the PTA. There are other community members on the Council that provide a parent perspective as well. A parent representative also participates in the Superintendent’s Advisory Council which ultimately approved the regulation.”
Well, I feel better. Who authorized Ms. Kurtyka, PTA and unknown “other” School Health Council members to speak for Frederick’s roughly 80,000 parents; 40,000 students and 250,000 citizens?
Problem #2: Instead of making this substantial change to FCPS “policy,” the change was made to FCPS “regulation.” The difference is, in changing a regulation they aren’t compelled by above referenced law, to inform parents, hold public hearings and gather public input. When changing a “regulation,” it’s fine and dandy for Ms. Kurtyka, PTA and “others” to speak for all of us.
It’s clear the federal government wanted parents involved in setting the parameters of what “wellness” and “food safety” looked like in their schools. I’m going to go out on a limb and say most parents enjoy the cupcake parties that help make their children love school.
Problem #3: This “regulation” change drastically alters the everyday occurrences within our classrooms. It dodged parental input and subverted parental control. I believe it requires a “policy” change with public input. You should contact the Frederick County Board of Education if you agree this issue should be brought before parents. (Board@fcps.org)
It’s understandable that our public schools would want to minimize the availability of certain foods to children with known allergies. However, FCPS is not a dictatorship even though this is how it conducts itself with growing regularity.
Instead of informing the public it was contemplating a drastic change, the educrats chose to remove us from the decision making process altogether.
If I had been asked, I would have advised not to “ban” communal food but to request a list of known food allergies be provided to the teacher and written permission from the parent to the teacher allowing/forbidding their child to eat foods provided by classmates or outside sources.
Instead, FCPS chose to do away with the time honored traditions of bringing cupcakes to school on birthdays, holidays and other celebrations. Fun and joy are being stripped from the public education experience. Well, except for the fact you can take the adults goodies and treats; the ban is only for the children. Adults still get to partake in traditions and you’ll still be asked to supply foods for teacher/staff appreciation days.
It’s good to be king; or in this case superintendent.