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July 15 2014

Goodbye, Cupcake

Patrice J. Lee

Do you remember the days in elementary school when kids celebrated their birthdays with a birthday cake at school for all of their classmates? Those were some of the best days at school. I got to don a fun Barbie paper hat and dine on a slice of sheet cake as we cheered for a fellow student.

Well, those days are over for the Edmond School District in Washington state because the school system voted to ban sweet treats for student birthdays in response to new federal wellness regulations that require superintendents to monitor nutritional standards for students. Instead of cupcakes or cake, kids can give out pencils or handmade cards or get an extra 10 to 15 minutes of recess. Does a new pencil scream celebration? Probably not; you can get a new pencil from the teacher anytime. The handmade cards are a thoughtful gesture and more recess time is always appreciated, but reason ends here with this new ban.

The school system uses the excuse that if there are multiple birthdays in a given week, that means there will be multiple opportunities for sweet treats. That’s not healthy and it sends the wrong message they posit. Parents are upset and call it an overreaction. We agree.

The local Fox affiliate Q13 Fox reports:

 “It ruins the fun,” parent Kristy Sweetwood said Tuesday.

It’s a ban that has many parents talking.

“The birthday treat, that’s something special. I don’t think you should mess with that,” Sweetwood said.

The district says it is about celebrating the kids, not the sweets.         

With no more cupcakes, schools can choose to hand out gifts such as pencils, origami or even more recess time.

But some parents say the district should just loosen up and not ruin a tradition.

“It’s not necessarily the district’s job to control that, to take away from everybody, it’s overreaching,” parent Marcus Shelton said.

While some parents are okay with the ban, the policy seems misguided. The administrators assume that every child brings cake to school to celebrate their birthday and that is unlikely. In a class of 30 children, there are likely to be children with birthdays during summer vacations, school vacations, and holidays. And there are families who choose not to send dozens of cupcakes to school.

The logic behind the policy seems overblown. For weeks where there are multiple birthdays a teacher could choose to celebrate them all at once in a week or month and that would address the concern of too much sugar.

There’s a war on school lunches. The First Lady and the Administration want to control the diets of school children everywhere with the well-meaning aim of stemming childhood obesity but achieved through ill-advised mandatory regulations that reduce the amount of fat and salts in the meals and reduces caloric intake. Congress is fighting back on behalf of hungry students and schools hemorrhaging needed funds on wasted meals.

Instead of arbitrary bans, school systems should leave the policies on birthday celebrations to the discretion of the individual schools or teachers. But their response is just how they are trying to address new rules forced on them by the Administration.

Fortunately, such bans are few and far between. Only 7.3 percent of schools prohibit sugary items during classroom birthday parties and 6.4 percent for classroom holiday parties. While one-third of schools discouraged sugary items, half of all schools either had no restrictions on party food or left the decision to the teacher.

Washington, D.C. should not dictate of what’s going on the plates of kids in schools. Return that decision-making authority to schools and parents working with teachers and administrators to decide what is best for their children. As we’ve said before, parents are the best long-term driver of healthy eating habits for their children. We don’t need bureaucrats in the Beltway devising new regulations that lack common sense and have negative unintended consequences for our children.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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