What seemed to be a small incident at a school in Colorado has evolved into a controversial debate. So what has parents and teachers talking about this? Well, it all starting when a student got home and told their parents that they were hungry from the morning.
Was the food that she had packed her daughter not enough? Did she need more food to be packed? But the answer that followed was nothing that she expected.
It was a normal day for Leeza Pearson until her daughter got home from school and complained that she was hungry. But Leeza had given her the same lunch she normally did. She then found the lunch was untouched by Natalee, her daughter.
She looked at her daughter with a questioning stare, then she found a note among the untouched food. She could never have been prepared for what was written on the note.
The town of Aurora, Colorado has a reputation for upstanding citizens who respect each other. This is where Leeza and her daughter, Natalee lived. So when she read the note in her daughter’s lunchbox she was surprised that Aurora’s Children’s Academy could have this much audacity!
She knew that she nor her daughter deserved any of this! The school had pushed her to her limit and she wouldn’t stand for it.
Leeza always made Natalee her priority. She wanted her daughter to have the best chance of being successful in life. So she put her in Aurora’s Children’s Academy. She soon found that the seemingly perfect school had its problems hiding in the shadows.
So what caused the note? One morning Leeza was in a hurry and packed Natalee’s lunch, but what she had done in the eyes of the school would be unacceptable. Something that Leeza would fight.
If you asked someone living in Aurora what the best school to put your kid into was they would say The Aurora Children’s Academy and Childcare Center. Up to 150 students could enroll so Leeza had acted vigilantly. Every mother agreed that it was the best choice when it came to education.
Leeza felt that the school was perfect for her daughter. Everyone recommended it so why should she be worried? The staff was apparently amazing and really got involved with the students. That’s what Leeza wished she had growing up, the least she could do was give that to her daughter.
Leeza felt that her life was finally shifting into place. She was nearing the end of the road when it came to her degree and her daughter seemed to be socializing and adapting to the new preschool. She felt like her future was secure, finally.
But what Leeza was unaware of was that her perfect life was about to be turned upside down.
It had nearly been a year since Natalee had started at the school and it seemed like she couldn’t be happier. There were no issues on her side and she was supported in the decision to move Natalee to the school by her husband, Nate.
But then it happened on a Friday like any other. How could they? Chaos was about to ensue and they didn’t see it coming.
Leeza didn’t have much free time with her degree and taking care of Natalee. She was busy working as a police officer, so juggling everything was no easy task.
So busy, in fact, that she hadn’t noticed that they didn’t have any healthy vegetables to give Natalee for lunch. She didn’t think it was a big deal but soon she’d find out what a crucial error she’d made, at least according to the school.
So with no vegetables in sight, Leeza smirked and decided it was time to give Natalee a small treat anyway. Her favorite was Oreos. To go with the treat was a ham and cheese sandwich and some string cheese. It was a Friday anyway, why not let her daughter enjoy the start to her weekend?
There was no fruit in the fridge but why should that matter? She gave Natalee fruit and vegetables every other day. She thought one day could be an exception.
Oreos are full of sugar. They’re one of the least healthy cookies you can find and sugar can cause problems like diabetes and other diseases.
The school officials call lunches that include sugary treats “poor.” Should a little girl be eating them? And was the school’s concern warranted? The school got involved in Natalee’s lunch that day, they deem all sugary items a “poor” lunch. They don’t think their students should be eating them. But should they have gotten so involved in the first place?
That Friday, Natalee arrived home from preschool with a sad expression on her face. Leeza asked what the matter was, and Natalee said that she was hungry. That’s when Leeza looked in her daughter’s full lunchbox and saw the note on top of the offending cookies, which were uneaten.
But when Leeza read the note, she became furious.
Leeza knew she needed to share the note with everybody and shame the school for their behavior.
The note 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.”
Leeza was absolutely furious. How dare the school dictate what her daughter could eat and what she couldn’t?
The note also stated that “Lunchables, chips, fruit snacks and peanut butter are not considered to be a healthy snack.” She was so incensed that she decided to share her outrage online.
When she posted the note and her summary of the day on social media, Leeza was quickly met with support from other parents and general outrage about the situation.
“I just got a bunch of outrage from friends I hadn’t heard from in years,” Leeza said later, noting that one of her friends summed up the incident as “ridiculous.”
From the school’s point of view, they were saving Natalee. We need to consider that the past twenty years has seen a huge rise in obese children. Whereas thirty and forty years ago, a larger person would have stood out and would have been acknowledged, today obesity is the norm and is being treated as such.
The folks at Aurora’s Children’s Academy probably just wanted to set Natalee on the right track.
The Children’s Academy was just keeping a watchful eye out. It’s no secret that there’s an obesity and health problem in America, and the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act came about to encourage healthier lunches for kids in schools. They are not going to allow their students to eat “poor lunch.”
Seeing Natalee open a pail full of carbs and sweets and zero veggies must have set off a lot of alarms among the staff.
We must keep in mind that the Children’s Academy is a place where toddlers aim to higher their education. They can’t do that with a pail full of Oreos. Studies have shown that healthy food does help children learn more efficiently.
“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. Natalee definitely wasn’t eating healthily.
No parent wants to be made an example of and no one wants to be accused of poisoning their child with bad food. The school basically went out of their way to make Leeza feel like a bad mother.
One can’t deny that she’d probably spend nights tossing and turning in bed whilst questioning her own parenting methods.
Leeza would later tell the media that her biggest problem with the issue was not that the school wanted students to eat healthy foods, but that the school “took it over the top.”
She said she felt “shamed” and that it was wrong for the school to say what her daughter could or couldn’t eat.
Leeza believed that by telling Natalee what she could and couldn’t eat out of her lunch, the school had overstepped its boundaries. “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.”
It would be one thing if Leeza’s daughter was 100 pounds and waddling through the class hallways.
By all means, at that point show some concern, but she was otherwise a thin and active little girl. This made the accusations all the worse.
Leeza said she was particularly unable to understand the school’s response considering that her daughter is healthy and not overweight.
“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.
To add fuel to the fire, Leeza alleges that the school once offered her daughter treats, making their actions hypocritical.
“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.
After the controversy that ensued, Leeza defended her decision to include Oreo cookies in her daughter’s lunch.
“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?”
The accusation is a bit strange, especially seeing as schools aren’t exactly sporting reputations that associate them with healthy food. The meals that kids usually get in school cafeterias are usually full of mystery.
The meats will taste rubbery and everything else will commonly share a disgusting texture. Also, candy is too commonly handed out in class.
At the time, Brenda Dean worked as the Children’s Academy’s director.
She said to the media that she was looking into the note, but that the note was not in accordance with school policy and should not have been sent home to a parent in such a manner.
If you are picturing this little girl getting her lunch ripped from her grasp and tossed in the trash, you might be getting this story all wrong.
Nobody exactly took the girl’s lunch and left to starve for the rest of the school. As the plot thickened, the whole truth came out.
Aurora Public Schools Chief Communications Officer Patti Moon said that although the school did prefer to keep parents informed about healthy choices, such actions should not be “punitive.”
She did, however, say that Natalee had been given the choice to have another snack and therefore did not have to go home hungry.
That means that Natalee took a stubborn stance and refused to eat the meal that was further provided for her.
That said, amid over a hundred children eating she sat there and wouldn’t eat anything. She decided that going through the day hungry was better than giving them the satisfaction.
When it comes to the feud between Leeza and the preschool that her daughter attended, it seems the drama was dropped when Natalee started elementary school.
One has to wonder what schools and parents learned from the situation.
In the end, the public school system certainly reevaluated its stance and definitely won’t be sending any more notes home to parents.
Meanwhile, Natalee moved on to elementary school and hasn’t had any other issues. However, the situation definitely shined a light on what role, if any, public schools should have in what kids can and can’t eat for lunch.