After coping with growing numbers of parents visiting school cafeterias during lunch, the Darien (Conn.) district has decided that parents and guardians are no longer welcome during the lunch period at elementary schools.
The Associated Press reports that the decision has stirred strong emotions in Darien. Some parents say the district was right to stop a disruptive practice, but others have protested that the change has deprived them of opportunities to check in on their children and model good social behavior.
“It feels like a punch in the gut,” says parent Jessica Xu, whose oldest child is in first grade. “I chose the town for the schools. I’m so frustrated the schools don’t want me there.”
On a typical day, Xu said, six or seven parents were in the cafeteria of her child’s school.
Around the nation, elementary schools generally set their own rules for parent visits, and policies vary widely.
In Darien, so many parents had begun attending lunch that principals felt it was affecting the day-to-day running of the elementary schools, says Tara Ochman, chairman of the Darien School Board.
“We believe that schools exist for children, and we work to develop the skills necessary for students to grow into engaged members of society,” Ochman said in a written statement. “We work every day on this mission so that our students embrace their next steps confidently and respectfully.”
One Darien mother, Beth Lane, said at an education board meeting last month that she welcomed the change.
“It was good because kids have to be able to learn how to work with each other and socialize with each other, and putting a parent in changes the dynamic dramatically,” she says.
But others say the midday visits allowed them to see how their children were faring and to help them resolve friction with other children.