Most parents would disagree with letting schools have a say in what type of food their child can bring to school with them. That type of behavior might be considered borderline overstepping boundaries. This very debate sparked massive controversy in Colorado when a mother packed what she thought was a healthy lunch for her daughter. The matter started discussions over nutrition, health, and how teachers should manage these concerns with the parents. No child should have to return home hungry due to conflicts caused by the adults…
Returning Home Hungry
It was a regular day for Leeza Pearson until her daughter returned home from school on an empty stomach. Much like any parent, Pearson grew worried about the situation, especially after she knew she packed a lunch for her little girl.
Baffled by the predicament, she looked inside her daughter’s lunch box and found a note. After reading the contents on the paper, Pearson grew quite unsettled at what she just read. Why would this happen?
Interesting Behavior In Colorado
Leeza and her family call Aurora, Colorado, their home. In this city, people usually treat each other well with no cause for concern because it is a place of acceptance and respect.
That’s exactly why Leeza became so distraught and confused by the way she and her daughter were treated by staff at the Aurora’s Children Academy. The academy took things a little too far this time around and did something no parent would have the capacity to accept.
A Competitive Environment
Leeza naturally only wanted the best for young Natalee. The environment she was growing up in was highly competitive, so it only felt right to put her in the Children’s Academy so young. It was also like a dream come true.
Unfortunately, things would turn into a nightmare for Leeza soon enough. One particular morning filled with stress, Leeza took her daughter’s lunch pail and did something the school deemed unthinkable. Stress can lead to people doing a lot of questionable things.
The Popular Preschool
The Children’s Academy & Childcare Center happens to be one of the premier preschools that can accommodate up to 150 kids at a time. Many parents trust that sending their kids here will more than prepare them for elementary school.
That’s what Leeza figured, which is why Natalee wound up attending The Children’s Academy & Childcare Center. No parent assumes a school will be bad for their child and sends them there anyways. That would just be bad parenting.
Life Wasn’t So Bad
Sometimes, we reach those points in life where all things are going well. Leeza was a step closer towards earning her degree, and Natalee was doing better than average at the highly-coveted preschool.
For once, life provided Leeza with no reason to complain about anything. That feeling is stellar. Unfortunately, things were about to take a sour turn. That’s why it’s hard for people to fully enjoy the path of life because you never know when things can change.
The Unforgettable Day
At the start, the school provided Leeza with nothing to complain about. The school year was nearly over and still, Leeza was on good terms with the preschool. Things would eventually change.
Leeza and her husband Nate hadn’t made any public grievances until a particular day. Things would all go south on a Friday, what’s supposed to be one of the best days of the week. Life had just given Leeza something to complain about again.
Busy Mother Life
Life can already be busy, but throw in a young child, and it becomes even more hectic. That’s true for Leeza, who one day didn’t realize she had no fruits or vegetables to add into Natalee’s lunch.
Leeza packed the meal as she usually did, only this time it was minus any of nature’s treats. This one mistake would lead to a more significant issue no one could have seen coming. It’s hard to say its Leeza’s fault.
Things Get A Little Sweet
On the same day that she forgot to pack any fruits and vegetables, Leeza chose to add in some not-so-healthy alternative. In Natalee’s lunch pail were the cookies that kids can’t get enough of, Oreos.
Leeza also says that she put a ham and cheese sandwich and a stringed cheese to help complete the lunch. On any other day, Leeza claims that she always adds in some veggies or fruits, but that wasn’t the day.
How Bad Are Oreos?
Just how bad are Oreos? Are they unpleasant enough to stir up a concern from the school? Well, they are one of the most unhealthy foods on the market today, thanks to all the added ingredients that aren’t natural.
If you eat them on a consistent enough basis, it can lead to diabetes and heart disease quite easily. The school must have had this frame of mind when they did what they did to Natalee.
Natalee arrived home from preschool like any other day, but this time she carried a significant complaint with her. On that Friday she was adamant about being hungry still, even though her mother packed the lunch.
It was at that moment Leeza searched the lunch pail only to find a note next to the Oreo cookies. Not only were the cookies not eaten, but once Leeza read the letter, she became even more unsettled about the whole thing.
The Rude Letter
Soon enough, Leeza shared the contents of the note. The words she read basically boiled down the school putting Leeza on the hot seat, and teaching her how to be a good parent.
The letter read: “Dear Parents, it is very important that all students have a nutritious lunch. This is a public school setting, and all children are required to have a fruit, a vegetable, and a healthy snack from home, along with a milk. If they have potatoes, the child will also need bread to go along with it.”
Putting The Note Online
Angered by the audacity the school had to send her child home hungry with a letter like that, Leeza took to the internet. She had to make sure people knew what this academy did to her little girl.
The bottom of the note also said that “Lunchables, chips, fruit snacks and peanut butter are not considered to be a healthy snack.” If this isn’t second-hand parenting, then we don’t know what is. Giving the parent some advice is one thing, but sending their child home hungry is a different ball game.
Outrage Coming In
All it took was a picture of the note and Leeza’s side of the story for the mother to receive a ton of support from other parents in the community. Who did the preschool think they were to scold a loving parent like that?
“I just got a bunch of outrage from friends I hadn’t heard from in years,” Leeza said later. She also noted that one of her friends called the whole ordeal “ridiculous.”
The Effects Of Obesity
Today, more than ever, people have become highly invested in what goes inside their bodies. Let the school tell it, and they were trying to “save Natalee.” Consider that in the past twenty years, there has been a huge rise in obese children.
Today, folks are taking extra steps in helping to prevent obesity. In the past, there weren’t that many obese individuals walking around, but that’s not the case today. The Aurora Children’s Academy probably did have the best interest for young Natalee.
Emphasizing Healthy Foods
The Children’s Academy was only doing what they thought was best for one of their pupils. One can argue that it’s this type of behavior from parents that lead to the Hunger-Free Kids act.
Leeza may have felt attacked by what the academy did, but it was the way she responded that made all of this newsworthy. You can say she might’ve gone too far, but we’re talking about her daughter, and making her go home hungry isn’t the answer.
Educating The Masses
“Students who eat regular, healthy meals are less likely to be tired, are more attentive in class and retain more information,” said NYU Associate Professor of Economics and Education Policy Sean Patrick Corcoran.
The Children’s Academy is a place where kids come to receiver a higher education. Having items in their lunch that aren’t healthy can be counter-productive of this, and the studies do prove that much. It sounds like Natalee wasn’t eating healthy at all.
No Parent Wants To Hear This
Whether its called for or not, no parent wants to be made an example of or told they’re poisoning their child with their food choices. That’s what happened with Leeza, so you can imagine her emotions.
What the school did was call Leeza a bad mother in a round-about way. Something like that can cause parents to stay up late in bed, thinking about their methods of parenting. It may force them to believe they’ve been doing it wrong this whole time.
When it became time for Leeza to talk to the media about the situation, she spoke her mind. She said the biggest gripe she had was not that the school wanted the kids to eat healthily, but that they “took it over the top” with her.
Leeza then said that she felt “shamed” by the fiasco and that it was wrong for the academy to say what her daughter could, and couldn’t eat. Many would agree with these feelings.
Crossing The Line
Leeza felt in her heart that when the school decided to tell Natalee what to consume, they overstepped their boundaries. That’s a fair, initial feeling to have, especially coming from the parent of the child that experienced this.
“What the school thinks is healthy for her is not what I think is healthy for her,” she said. “She needs to eat what she’s going to eat. That’s between me and her and our doctor – not the school.”
No Signs Of Obesity
Early prevention is real. Still, Leeza might not have looked at it that way. It would have been different if her daughter was 100 pounds and chowing on hot dogs with soda every day. That’s when you need to show concern.
In reality, she was a skinny and active young girl. Due to that being the case, it made the whole situation much worse than it ever needed to be. Was the academy trying to convey an underlying message?
Defending Her Stance
Not understanding why someone has done anything to you because the opposite is true is fine. Natalee was the opposite of obese, and that’s why Leeza stood her ground when things started to unfold.
“It’s not like I was offering cookies to the entire class, and it’s not like that was the only thing in her lunch,” Leeza said. Her quote makes a valid point about not offering the whole class any, but the focus was on Natalee, not the class.
Are They Hypocrites?
To only make things more compelling, Leezo had an interesting counter-argument. She says the school offered her child treats in the past, making their actions sway towards hypocritical. That does sound a bit perplexing when you think about it.
“They say I can’t decide what to feed her, but then they sometimes feed her junk food,” Leeza said during an interview with ABC News. Leeza bringing this to the media’s attention was a smart idea on her behalf.
Standing Up For What She Believes In
Not only was Natalee not overweight by any sense, but she also liked eating the Oreos. After the drama began to escalate, Leeza continued to stand her ground, defending her choice to give her daughter the chocolaty goodness.
“We’re not the parents that send junk food every day,” she said later in an interview. “She has a full, healthy lunch. And this was Friday! Why not give her a special treat?” That’s a great point she makes at the end.
Schools Don’t Usually Have A Good Reputation For Food
Not only was it an attack on someone’s parenting, but the advice came from an organization that historically doesn’t carry a great reputation when it comes to food. When you think of school food, you don’t get ecstatic.
The negative connotation attached to school food is that it’s a mystery. The meats might taste like rubber, and other things might have a disgusting texture. Teachers are also guilty of handing out candy to their students all the time.
Not In The Policy
At the time of this mishap, Brenda Dean was the Children’s Academy’s director. The directors usually have full knowledge of how operations for their campus should go, and Dean certainly did.
After looking further into the matter, Dean came to a conclusion. She said that the note wasn’t following the school’s policy and that Natalee shouldn’t have been sent home that way. That bit of information should leave Leeza feeling a bit of relief after standing her ground.
A Waste Of Lunch
You might be imagining a young child having their lunch taken from them and dumped into the trash. To be transparent, that isn’t the story at all. Nobody stripped Natalee of her food in the scenario.
She wasn’t left to starve while her friends flocked merrily around the playground. As the plot thickened, the truth to everything came out. That’s why it’s always important to know all the facts before you jump to a false conclusion…
The Truth Starts To Unravel
Aurora Public Schools Chief Communications Officer Patti Moon had some interesting words about this dilemma. Moon said that although the school did like to keep the parents up to date about healthy choices, the actions shouldn’t be looked at as punishment.
Moon added another bit of information that makes the case less disheartening when she revealed that they did offer Natalee an alternative. She had been given the option to have another snack so that she wouldn’t go home hungry.
Now if we backtrack we see what happened, is it fair to say that Natalee took a stubborn stance (she’s in preschool after all) when she refused to eat the alternative?
Sure, you can say that, but you also have to look at the other side. Natalee’s conviction to sit there and not eat anything while the others enjoyed their meal was her not giving them the satisfaction. What about what she wants? Was it fair to do that?
Where Do The Schools Stand?
After the onset of the drama, it looked like Leeza, and the academy would never reconcile their issues. All it took was a little extra time, and everyone was okay with each other again.
Once Natalee started elementary school, that’s when the tension between both parties dropped. Probably because they didn’t have to see each other five days a week anymore. One can only wonder what type of lessons both parents and schools learned from this situation.
When all the dust settled, the school system highly reevaluated it’s stance and won’t be sending home any more notes to parents. After the severe backlash, it only made sense that way.
On the parental side of things, Natalee finally graduated on to elementary school and hasn’t had any issues. The situation certainly shined a light on the role, if any, schools have in what their students should and shouldn’t be consuming. You should always think twice before telling a loving parent how to raise their child.
Teen Banned From Wearing Yoga Pants, Mom Writes Letter That Goes Viral
It’s typical for schools to have dress codes in place so that students don’t have free reign to wear whatever they want that might distract or offend their peers. Some educational institutions require their students to wear a uniform, such as khaki pants and collared shirts. Other schools don’t allow students to wear clothing with logos on them. Still more ban things such as sleeveless tops or shorts that aren’t a certain length.
One mom was shocked when she received a note from school that her 13-year-old daughter violated the school’s dress code. At first, she ignored the notice, but when it happened again, she did something about it.
One Big Happy Family
Dr. Catherine Pearlman is a typical mom who would probably have milk and cookies ready for her children when they come home from school. She works as a social worker and is also a writer.
She grew up in Long Island, New York, but currently resides with her husband and their children in California. They also have a dog named Norma. On the surface, it appears that Pearlman and her family are a stereotypical nuclear family: two parents, two children, and a beloved pet. (Do they have a white picket fence as well?)
A Mom with Credentials
Pearlman’s life seems pretty common to most people. However, she is an expert on families. She writes about parenting issues on her blog, The Family Coach. It includes the tagline: “Because we all need a little coaching sometimes.” According to her blog, she “advises on all matters of parenting such as potty and sleep training, discipline, food issues, sibling rivalry, and more.”
Pearlman earned her doctorate in social welfare at Yeshiva University and her master’s degree in social work from New York University. She has a private practice and is also an assistant professor in the social work program at Brandman University.
Yoga Pants Ban
Through her work, Pearlman focuses primarily on other parents’ problems with their children. But in August 2016, she found herself in the middle of a situation involving her own child. A teacher from her daughter’s school told the young ladies that females were not allowed to wear yoga pants during gym class.
Yoga pants are generally cotton, spandex, or some other type of stretchy material that are tightly fitted on a person’s body. Pearlman was not happy with the rule and was troubled by the reason why girls were banned from wearing yoga pants while taking gym class.
The teacher at her daughter’s school claimed that if girls wore clothing such as yoga pants to school, the boys in class would get noticeably aroused. She added that males that age can’t help themselves when they are around females. They just have trouble controlling themselves. The teacher came to the conclusion that enforcing a yoga pants ban would prevent any embarrassing situations from taking place.
It’s unclear what type of embarrassing incidents the teacher was referring to. Perhaps the boys would attack the girls in yoga pants? Or maybe they’d be making sprints to the bathroom to take care of business? Nonetheless, Pearlman was furious.
What About Miniskirts?
Pearlman couldn’t contain her anger. She decided to write about the incident on her blog. After all, she has a lot of experience dealing with families and children and the normal behaviors of the average teen male and female.
She wrote, “In the 1960s and ’70s, the girls all wore miniskirts that barely covered their rears. And the boys still managed to graduate.” She does have a point. Even 50 years ago fashion often highlighted aspects the female body the men find sexy and attractive. Does it make a difference if legs are bare or covered in a tight, stretchy material?
Males Need to Take Responsibility
After pointing out that girls have been wearing clothing that boys find attractive for decades, she slammed the school’s dress code, which was specifically targeting females. She believed it sent the wrong message to young women. Pearlman wrote, “Banning yoga pants for the purpose of avoiding unwanted erections sends the message that boys are programmed to respond and can’t help what their bodies do.”
So girls need to take the blame for a boy’s reaction? Pearlman added, “Boys and men are responsible for their actions.” She wanted to make the point that males need to exercise self-restraint when they see an attractive female.
Girl Shaming Is Not Okay
Pearlman added that it wasn’t her daughter’s job to make sure that her male classmates control themselves. “It isn’t the responsibility of my daughter (or any daughter) to help boys manage sexual urges,” she wrote. “It is the responsibility of the boys. It isn’t okay to start shaming girls about their bodies by telling them to obsessively cover up. And girls should not have to disregard their own comfort to protect the comfort of the boys around them.”
In other words, a girl should decide to wear something such as yoga pants because it’s comfortable. She should not be afraid that doing so will cause problems with the boys around her.
Another Dress Code Violation
It’s very clear that Pearlman was quite angry about the school’s dress code. She felt that her daughter, and other students, had the right to wear yoga pants if they chose to do so. It’s not as though the girls were wearing booty-baring short shorts or blouses that revealed a lot of cleavage. They weren’t walking around in stilettos. But perhaps Pearlman would defend that type of fashion as well?
When teachers reprimanded Pearlman’s daughter for an additional clothing violation, she was furious. Instead of just writing a blog post, she decided to take additional action. She had enough.
Forced to Change into Boy Shorts
Apparently, Pearlman’s daughter dressed inappropriately for school two days in a row. On the first day, it was because she wore yoga pants, which were so distracting to boys that apparently they couldn’t control themselves around her or other girls who wore similar pants.
On the second day, her daughter had the audacity to wear shorts to school, which also posed a problem. In fact, they were such a problem that administrators forced her daughter to change into a pair of boy’s shorts that were found in the school. So, girl shorts were bad but boy shorts were good.
Angry Letter to the Principal
Pearlman was really angry that her daughter was humiliated two days in a row because of a dress code that seemingly targeted girls. First, it was yoga pants, an article of clothing that millions of people wear every day to the gym, at home, and as leisure wear.
Then it was shorts, which are also a common item for summer. Pearlman was so outraged that she sent a letter to the school’s principal, who happened to be a woman. Pearlman suggested that the principal go clothes shopping with her daughter and find more appropriate outfits that she could wear on a day-to-day basis.
Limited Clothing Options
Pearlman was so infuriated that she gave explicit instructions to the principal to help her find clothes that would be suitable for the classroom. “Here are the specifications you have to work with. I wish you loads of luck,” Pearlman wrote. “She is 5 feet 7 inches and 13 years old. Built more like her father, she has exceptionally long legs and arms.”
It may seem surprising to some people (okay, probably not), but not all girls or boys have the same body type. Pearlman’s daughter is a little tall for her age and has long limbs. She has limited clothing options.
Sweatpants Are Not an Option
Pearlman wasn’t done and proceeded to describe her daughter’s preferences. She added that her daughter isn’t your typical girly girl who likes flowers and butterflies, sequins and lace, and other frilly, fluffy or stereotypical feminine wear. In fact, her daughter preferred more comfortable clothing, such as a t-shirt featuring her favorite band.
So what about more loose clothing such as sweatpants? They were absolutely out of the question because her daughter had problems with overheating. And as the name suggests, they can make you sweat. Also, anyone who has a teenager daughter knows that sweatpants aren’t a top pick to wear to school.
No Tank Tops Or Short Skirts
Pearlman took a long hard look at the dress code requirements and determined that some of them would be very difficult to adhere to. “Now, don’t forget that you will have to find something in the stores that also meets with your dress code requirements,” Pearlman wrote.
“Here are the tricky areas that are most difficult to avoid. As per your policy, she cannot wear tank tops. Shorts and skirts must not extend to the end of the fingertips (this is a toughie.)” Don’t forget, Pearlman’s daughter has long arms and legs, so finding shorts that meet the criteria isn’t easy.
Clothes Shopping Is Challenging
Pearlman continued, “She has very long fingers which seem to make finding shorts that won’t get her sent to the principal’s office impossible. On the bright side, the piano teacher says those fingers are an asset.”
As Pearlman pointed out, it wasn’t an easy job finding clothing that fit the school’s specs. She added, “I’d schedule a few afternoons and weekends for this endeavor. I can tell you from experience that just heading to the mall, Target and the outlets won’t cut it. Not much for her there. I’ve already checked.” It’s likely that Pearlman isn’t the only mom who’s struggled to find the right clothes for her daughter.
Money Is Also a Factor
As Pearlman already established, problem number one was that her daughter was banned from wearing yoga pants. Problem number two was that she couldn’t wear shorts unless they were a certain length. Problem number three was finding a style of clothing that was appealing to her daughter.
In addition to adhering to the school’s dress code and locating items that fit her daughter’s tastes, Pearlman pointed out another issue. Money! As the mother of a growing teen, it wasn’t feasible to spend a lot of money on shirts, pants, and shorts that would only be worn by her daughter for a limited period of time.
Sick of the Dress Code
Pearlman was obviously frustrated with not only the school’s dress code but also her inability to easily find clothing that not only fit her teen daughter but was also something she wanted to wear. Pearlman wrote towards the end of her letter to the principal: “I thank you endlessly for taking on this chore. What a relief for me.”
If she can’t tackle her daughter’s clothing issues, maybe someone else can! (Someone like a school principal who’s in charge of hundreds of teenagers). Pearlman completed the letter by writing, “Sincerely, Sick Of The Dress Code Mom.” Do you think the principal got her point?
The hypocrisy of School Dress Codes
It’s unclear how or if the school responded to Pearlman’s letter to the principal, which clearly outlined why it was such a challenge finding school-appropriate clothing for her 13-year-old daughter. But whether or not the letter made an impact with administrators, it made an impression on other parents around the United States.
The note went viral online among moms and dads who know exactly what Pearlman was going through as the mom of a teenage girl. Not surprisingly, it’s not easy being a parent. After reading Pearlman’s letter, several people pointed out how many school dress codes are hypocritical.
Boys Often Get More Leeway
In one response to Pearlman’s letter, one woman wrote on Facebook: “Just had a conversation with my middle school son. He said boys don’t get dress coded… only the girls. The boys wear clothes with pot leaves on them and, apparently, that’s appropriate.”
“But a girl’s stomach is cause for PE clothes to be worn in lieu of what her parents felt was appropriate to wear to school.” So, according to this mom, the boys at her son’s school get away with wearing t-shirts with drug symbols on them, while the girls get reprimanded if they show off their midriffs.
Support from Other Parents
Pearlman made a point in her letter that resonated with a lot of parents who have teenagers. She didn’t like the way administrators treated her daughter. She and other girls shouldn’t be treated as distractions because boys allegedly have uncontrollable urges. The responsibility should not fall solely on girls.
And a school’s focus should be on the students’ education and not whether their fingertips reach the end of their shorts or not. There are more important things for teachers and those in charge to tackle. Perhaps in the future girls will have more freedom in their clothing choices and boys will learn how to behave themselves around women in tank tops.