School officials defended the decision to punish Leighann:
Jack Ellis, the superintendent for Brazos Independent School District, declined an on-camera interview. But he said the school was abiding by a state guideline that banned “minimal nutrition” foods.When news of the detention hit the local media, the Texas Department of Agriculture sent a letter to the school informing the school they went too far:
“Whether or not I agree with the guidelines, we have to follow the rules,” he said.
The state, however, gives each school discretion over how to enforce the policy. Ellis said school officials had decided a stricter punishment was necessary after lesser penalties failed to serve as a deterrent.
Ellis said failing to adhere to the state’s guidelines could put federal funding in jeopardy.
First and foremost, TDA does not set disciplinary policy for schools. School disciplinary policies are governed by local school districts in compliance with the Texas Education Code.The school's policy seems both restrictive and invasive. The school argued they could not discipline a student if a parent had packed food the school deemed minimally nutritious. Leighann, however, received the piece of candy from another student, making her possession of the Jolly Rancher a violation. This leads me to wonder whether the teacher saw the "suspicious exchange" or did she ask Leighann if her parent packed the candy in her lunch. Do they walk around the lunch room looking at the nutrition labels of the items packed for a student's lunch? What message does this send to a student when a teacher questions the nutritious value of items packed for the student's lunch? Who is breathing down the teacher's neck analyzing what he/she eats? Did anyone stop for one minute and think this is a 23-calorie piece of candy at the heart of this whole fiasco?
The Texas Public School Nutrition Policy (TPSNP), sets standards for nutritious meals and has no reference to student disciplinary action. The intent of the TPSNP is to supplement federal policies defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Services (USDA FNS). As a result of local nutrition and wellness policies, school districts may have stricter nutrition guidelines.
It appears, based on the news story, the school district has adopted a more restrictive policy. This particular incidence of candy possession, as it has been reported by KHOU-TV would not be considered a violation of the State or federal nutrition program rules and therefore would not have jeopardized your district's food service funding.
I hope the school was as zealous in analyzing their responsibilities to teach Leighann math and reading.
Fortunately it didn't take a call from the Governor to get Leighann a reprieve. The letter served its' purpose; Leighann no longer has to serve the detentions. The school got quite a bit of egg on the face and some well-deserved negative attention from the press. Leighann's mother Amber Brazda claims a valuable lesson was learned, “If you feel that you’re in the right and they’re wrong and in your heart you know you’re right, then you have to fight for what you believe in.” That is an important lesson, no doubt. It wasn't Amber or Leighann who needed the lesson here. Let's hope this school learned something from their moment in the spotlight as well.
Thanks to my friend Anne Leary at Backyard Conservative for linking.