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unimaginative2
2006-Sep-21, 20:27
Eat at home or eat in silence, students told
UNNATI GANDHI

TORONTO -- When Maureen Holloway's seven-year-old son told her this month that pupils at his school were not allowed to talk during lunch, she didn't believe him.

After all, she thought, socializing and lunchtime have always gone hand in hand.

But when Ms. Holloway went to talk to her son's vice-principal, she was left, well, speechless.

"He gave me an absolutely shocking explanation. Yes, in fact, they have to be quiet. And not even just be quiet, they have to be silent. No talking whatsoever," she said. "I was very alarmed, and to be honest, a little frightened."

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Eat at home or eat in silence, students told
Parents and their children who attend Howard Junior Public School in Toronto's west end are outraged by a letter sent by the school on the first day that implied pupils should be going home for lunch. In part, the letter read, "The ideal situation for children is to be able to go home for lunch and have an opportunity to get some exercise and eat in a quiet, calm setting."

"It was very preachy," Ms. Holloway said.

"I actually felt guilty for about a second, because [the letter] was implying that if you're not fortunate enough to have a stay-at-home parent then the school would provide a situation where they could have lunch, as if lunch is not part of the school experience."

However, what infuriated parents even more was that children who ate at school that week were told that for the first 20 minutes of lunch, they were expected to eat in silence in the school gym and then they could go into the yard for the rest of the hour.

"I went to a convent boarding school and I was never asked to be quiet," Ms. Holloway said.

A week later, pupils were given permission to speak to those around them -- quietly.

School officials deny that silence was ever demanded.

"No communication went out from the school expecting the kids to be silent over lunch," school principal Michelle Bartalos said yesterday.

"We do expect our kids to socialize over lunch, but we ask that they speak to the people around them. We want a lunch that is quiet and welcoming for all our students."

The strict lunch policy stems from complaints by parents that the small gym that doubles as a lunchroom for roughly 350 pupils was too boisterous, Ms. Bartalos said.

"Not all of our students were able to participate because of the noise level," she said, "so it was a safety issue."

Ten-year-old Genevieve Madill said she doesn't see how safety has anything to do with it.

"I thought it was just really unfair that we weren't allowed to talk at all because we only get three periods [recess and lunch] to see our friends and talk, and now we weren't even allowed to do that until we got outside."

Genevieve's mother, Pamela Munt-Madill, said that even though the rules have been relaxed since, the policy is still too strict -- children must ask permission to go to the bathroom and cannot get up to throw out garbage until the end of lunch -- and should be refined.

"Lunch is a time to be social," she said. "I don't think it's human to sit around and eat and not talk."

There is no one policy regarding lunch programs for the more than 400 public schools across the city, said Dave Rowan, associate director of the Toronto District School Board.

Of Howard's alleged approach, he said: "I do not support, nor would our board support, a totally silent 'thou shalt not speak' approach. That's unrealistic and inappropriate for our young people."

In response to some parents' expression of feelings that their children were forced out of school for lunch, Mr. Rowan said the school would be sending home another letter in the near future clarifying that "all our students should feel welcome."

Of the school's 550 students, fewer than one-quarter -- about 100 -- go home for lunch. According to one parent, that is because it's close to impossible with the time constraints.

"I work from home, but even I can't get my kids home and back within the hour," said Barb McLean, who takes hot lunches to her three children at Howard.

"By the time I bring them home, I'm rushing them to eat so that we can make it back."

Copyright 2006 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.

billonlogan
2006-Sep-21, 21:10
Our kids who are in primary grades eat lunch at school. They tell me its the worst part of the day. The lunch room supervisors are mean, yell at the kids and don't allow for much excitement. I hired one for our kids birthday party.
Things went smoothly.

bizorky
2006-Sep-21, 23:11
Being a kid must suck these days. You have to shut up at lunch, you get mindless tests all the time, a packed curriculum, tons of homework, get blamed for what you watch on TV, accused of being made insensitive by your video games, told that you are obese to the degree that you will die a premature death, and unable to argue back that maybe it was adult decisions that created these problems (if they are even problems).

Then you become a teenager.

For those years you are considered as nothing more but the spawn of the devil.

adma
2006-Sep-22, 00:36
Hey, maybe the brats can protest by throwing human feces at the teachers--y'know, tit-for-tat viz. Joe Pantalone's sis...

bizorky
2006-Sep-22, 04:14
^Nah, that'll just expand the "spawn of the devil" category. That or teachers will be blamed for setting a poor example.