Can your complaining at school actually hurt your kids?

A mom from Atlanta is raising cane at her children’s school in New York City about the junk food they are being served.

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MeMe Roth, an Upper West Side mother of two who runs the group National Action Against Obesity, doesn’t have a problem with the lunches the school is serving. Instead she’s upset about all the sugary treats being given to her children on a fairly regular basis at school – doughnuts in gym class, cupcakes for birthdays, and candy for Valentine’s Day.

Here’s the full story from The New York Times.

The debate of whether schools should allow parents to send in cupcakes and other treats for birthdays and holidays isn’t a new one to this blog. We have talked about it many times. (December of 2006 — Cupcake Controversy: Tasty treat or Evil?) And we can talk about it more today if you want.

But what interests me more about this story is the fairly aggressive way this mother is approaching her school and the other parents in her community. And I’m wondering if there is a point at which a parent complaining at a school could actually hurt their children?

Check out this part of The New York Times story:

After sending a heated email to the school about some of the treats, Ms. Roth and her husband went in for a meeting.

“What followed was the kind of meeting in which bureaucracy masquerades as farce, or maybe it’s the other way around. Ms. Roth and her husband, Ben, say they were told by Helene Moffatt, a school safety official, that if they considered the regular dissemination of junk food a threat to their children’s health and safety – and indeed, they do – they should request a health and safety transfer, something that generally follows threats of violence. That transfer request, they were told, would also require filing a complaint with the police.”

“Both parents left feeling they were being pushed out of P.S. 9, which they perceive as exhausted by Ms. Roth’s intense lobbying for, among other things, permission slips for any food not on the official lunch menu. It would not be the first time: The Roths previously lived in Millburn, N.J., where, after Ms. Roth waged war on the bagels and Pringles meal served to kids at lunch, received e-mail from one member of the P.T.A. that said, ‘Please, consider moving.’ That was in 2006, and P.S. 9 has been hearing about its transgressions against healthy eating pretty much ever since.”

“Her extreme methods have earned her attention before: The police were called to a Y.M.C.A. in 2007 when she absconded with the sprinkles and syrups on a table where members were being served ice cream. That was Ms. Roth who called Santa Claus fat on television that Christmas, and she has a continuing campaign against the humble Girl Scout cookies, on the premise that no community activity should promote unhealthy eating.”

She also sends out e-mails with lots of capital letters to other parents in the community. One dad commented that while she had valid points, she was too abrasive in her delivery.

On the one hand she’s fearless. She is trying to protect her kids and fight for what she believes in. On the other hand, is she setting herself and her children up to be pariahs at their school? (Did you catch the part where she was asked to consider moving? Can you imagine?)

I’m not saying parents shouldn’t complain and stand up for what they believe in, but I think they also have to remember their children have to “live” in that environment eight hours a day.

(Obviously if someone is bullying my kids or threatening my kids I’m raising holy cane and would be willing to pull my child if necessary, which I guess is how Ms. Roth feels.)

And I’m sorry as impartial as the teachers and principals should be and may claim to be, your child will suffer some consequences if you are a pain-in-the-a@# parent.

I definitely worry about being a pain-in-the-a@# parent.

I am at my school pretty frequently. (One dad asked me if I worked there.) I know my kids’ teachers, even the ones that teach electives. I know the administrators. I even know the lunch room monitors.

I am going to advocate for my children (because that is my job!) at the school, and I’m going to make sure they get what they need from their teachers and the administrators, but I’m also going to go about it in, hopefully, a smart way that doesn’t hurt my kids in unintended ways.

I try to contribute to the school as much as I annoy.

The final paragraph in the story suggests that Ms. Roth might catch more flies with honey — a very Southern solution.

What do you think: How much can you complain and advocate without putting your kids into an uncomfortable environment? Do you think Ms. Roth is over the line? How would you handle her situation? What other situations have you faced in your school? Would you be offended if parents sent you emails complaining about school policies? Has this ever happened at your school?

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69 comments Add your comment


June 17th, 2009
3:22 pm

Original Becky, I can’t speak for every man, but YES, I like women that skinny. I don’t think she is overly thin at all. Very nice body.

Her personality is a turn off, but her body is great.

Some men probably prefer “thick” women, but for me, I like healthy thin women.


June 17th, 2009
3:39 pm

Yeah, but she’s not healthy. She’s mentally ill. I think there’s something wrong with men who are sexually attracted to women who have children’s bodies. Wouldn’t have wanted ‘em hanging around my kids, that’s for sure.

I’m 5′10″, a serious marathon runner (run at least four every year), I spend about four hours a week doing serious weight lifting, and I have breasts. Real breasts. Real breasts that are where they were when I was sixteen, and I had five kids. I’m sorry, but she is NOT healthy. She’s bony and scrawny and anorexic looking and her boobs need work. Sorry, but it’s true. Plus, no serious athlete looks like that. She only runs four miles a day. That’s nothing, and on a woman of her weight, that only burns a couple hundred calories, so she’s staying that thin by undereating and that’s gonna come back and bite her in the butt (well, if she had one…) big time. She’s DEFINITELY a candidate for osteoporosis. Who cares how thin you are if you’re stooped over with a hunch on your back or if your arms and legs snap like twigs when you fall?


June 17th, 2009
3:46 pm

Nora, I assume we are talking about this picture:

The woman in that pic is not too thin to me. Its all a matter of opinion.


June 17th, 2009
4:01 pm

No, actually, although that looks like it was shot on the same day. She ran some race in a bikini — could be the same one — and the side shot pics are pretty ugly. She’s nothing but skin and bones, and the interesting thing is even in the action shots where she’s running, she doesn’t have great muscle definition at all. Her thinness is more a product of her undereating than it is of serious physical activity.

Still, what that picture does is prove once again her insatiable personal need for the spotlight to be on her, her, her. That’s troubling when she has little kids who need a mother. Motherhood is all about putting your kids first. She doesn’t do that. She hides behind her bogus “anti-obesity” campaign in order to promote herself.

Plus, I’d rather be pro-health than anti-obesity. Thinness in and of itself is not a health goal. Strong bones, active muscle mass, well-rounded nutrition, a healthy mental outlook, a strong code of honor, a sense of the dignity and wholeness of the other people around you — these things don’t seem to matter much to her.

Jessica Gottlieb

June 17th, 2009
4:28 pm

Wow, I see y’all coming over from here. I have neglected to publish the comments where MeMe is called hideous names.

It’s time for a little self examination. Schools need to nurture our kids, handing a kid a donut after a PE class is like giving them a lobotomy after teaching them science.


June 17th, 2009
4:31 pm

My daughter had a boy in her class this past year who had various food allergies. His mother made sure the teacher always had a supply of ‘approved’ snacks for him, and that is what he ate when cupcakes or whatever were brought in. I even offered to bring something for her whole class on her birthday that he could eat too,(instead of cupcakes) but his Mom said that would be too much trouble for me, to just bring whatever would make my daughter happy, and her son would be OK with his treats. I think this is the correct way to handle it- leave some snacks for her kids with their teachers if she is so against other snacks, and then let the other parents do as they see fit….

As for being involved, I try to be involved so that I can get a feel for what is actually going on, and the dynamics in the class. I admire teachers, could never be one, so I hope I am helpful! I always try to tell the teachers how much I appreciate them, so they will know I am there to help, not pick apart…

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

June 17th, 2009
4:41 pm

Stephanie — we had a little guy like that in our preschool class — allergic to everything!!! He’s going into third grade now and his moms is still doing exactly what you described — she doesn’t want to put anyone out and brings him treats, etc… that work for him. the VBS program did get Soy Ice Cream for the end of week ice cream party for him and another little girl wtih allergies — we made sure we took them first and made sure it was the soy —

Jessica — That’s exciting you can see all our visitors coming to your site!! I think most people would agree moderation is key and handing out donuts after PE is wrong.


June 17th, 2009
5:08 pm

Original Becky …. whoops…sorry I listed myself as just Becky today. I forgot I’ve seen your name on here before. I hardly ever post. Next time will assign myself another name :)

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

June 17th, 2009
5:21 pm

new Becky — you’re so nice!! that was thoughtful!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

June 17th, 2009
5:25 pm

Hey Guys — I am sitting here trying to decide what to write about for tomorrow — I’m giving you a poll a the top — vote for the topic you want for tomorrow — basically the other topic will go on Friday — I’m torn between Fun Friday and Father’s Day stuff — see what you think — thanks for the input!!


June 17th, 2009
6:02 pm

Friday lets do crushes….


June 17th, 2009
6:18 pm

I will apologize as I have not read all the previous posts.

This lady is completely nuts. While she has some points on obesity, there is nothing wrong with an occasional junk food snack. If she doesn’t want her children receiving the treats, then she should talk (nicely) with the teachers and staff. Her children should then not receive the snack and have healthy alternative snacks that the mother has provided. When I was a school nurse, we had a couple of diabetic children that had alternative snacks when the class had a party. The parents of those children didn’t make a stink about the occasional junk food (and they would have actually had a good reason to complain!)

This lady is over the top. Like I said she has some valid arguments about childhood obesity, but come on!! I’m willing to bet that her children will completely rebel when they get older.

Original Becky

June 18th, 2009
8:32 am

Becky, that’s ok..I’ve seen your post on here a few times..Thank you for offering to change your name..If you can’t come up with something that you like, just let us know and I’ll be happy to change my login..As Theresa said, welcome to our family..


June 18th, 2009
9:03 am

I’m the parent. You’re the teacher who’s paid with my tax dollars. You don’t have to like me. I have to like you.


June 18th, 2009
9:06 am

Original Becky…I’ll be BShepC. sorry for the confusion and thanks for all the warm welcomes….


June 18th, 2009
10:11 am

Unhealthy eating is a no no…but to totally take it out? you’ll end up with kids who go nuts once they move out of the house…cupcakes for breakfast, cookies for me! my parents would never ever allow me to drink anything but water..I moved out at 18…I am now a sodaholic..I can’t go near water. You deny where they can’t have it all..and they will be feroucious for it when they are older. She is going about this the wrong way. However…I fully understand her concern. My daughter is in the 2nd grade, and they have on friday’s whats called a fruit plate. And she always wanted it..And I thought, wow thats awesome..fruit for lunch! And she likes it! so..I went to have lunch with her one day…the fruit plate? consisted of 5 grapes…fruit chews, package of animal cookies, and a cup of yogurt…that wasn’t didn’t even have yogurt cultures and consisted of 39 grams of sugar! that as lunch as a fruit plate. Then I can understand the cupcake issue…my daughter’s class consists of 19 students..and all they’re birthdays this year fell within the school year..that means..19 times my daughter had cupcakes. not to mention the teacher’s birthday, christmas, easter, valentines, thanksgiving, halloween, field day, and end of the year parties. Also, at the end of each week, the children who got no marks for bad behavior were awarded…with candy. and each week a child was picked who had been especially good and helpful and they got???? a cupcake! now..this really isn’t a huge issue for us…our daughter is opposite of me, she hates soda, loves water, she hates chocolate, only likes vanilla, and she’s not a big candy eater..she’ll think nothing of eating a whole carton of blueberries however. She loves fruit, and she loves wheat bread..go figure..she likes skim milk instead of whole..I swear..sometimes I think they switched her at birth. She is active in many sports and activities…so all those sugary goodnesses that get eaten at school..get burned off in her energy throughout the day..seriously..per her dietary pyramid (a project they did at school) it was proven that she gets 350 discretionary calories..that means 350 calories are totally up to her..however she wants to fill them..candy..butter, ice cream, whatever..thats how pack full of energy she is. (we don’t do that though) but..what about the kids who aren’t like her? who aren’t active, and only sit in front of the tv? who only drink sodas? in most lunches are nutritious..but this last seemed like there was constantly a reason that I was bringing in sweets for some occasion.


June 22nd, 2009
2:37 pm

Wouldn’t it just be easier to teach your children NOT to eat what you consider junk food?


June 23rd, 2009
1:25 am

I had a similar situation happen to me, and my child, but it didn’t have to do with food, it was bullying, and a lack of progress, involvement,and information about what was being taught in the classroom, coupled with drama, false accusations, and more. I am going to blog about it at one point, but it is going to be lengthy so I need a little time.

I love your blog, and I agree that teachers have the power and parents do not so they can do what they want including keeping children at a low performance level, and one that is not as high as it could be with a few changes in curriculum, and delivery.

I have a few friends that are teachers, and I have a few teachers that are not my friends and I disagree with the way that they treat students and to have even your claims looked at their are a series of steps that must be gone through to get anything done about it, so few people go through the process, instead finding other schools, or solutions to their childs education.

So, I agree that this lady was “pushed” out of the school deliberately. Yes, she went about this wrong, and yes teachers have favorites and children that they are less thrilled to teach, that is a fact.

Anyway, I will check out your blog, come and check out mine if you want, I have a few.


December 5th, 2009
11:42 am

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