Anyone who is or has been the parent of a young child knows the challenges that surround meal time. Picky eaters have the ability to drive us crazy as we head out to the closest fast food joint for yet another meal “with a toy in it.” When you do finally come up with a menu that your kid will eat it’s like a breath of fresh air. The last thing you need is someone else judging your parenting decisions and you definitely don’t need anyone tampering with your kids’ food without your permission. This story is about just that.
Finding The Note
Leeza Pearson assumed her day was going to go by just as they usually do. She planned to take her daughter to school and then go about running her own errands in preparation for the rest of the day.
Everything was going fine until her daughter returned from school that afternoon, hungry. Leeza had packed her daughter’s lunch that morning, so she didn’t understand why she was so hungry. That’s when Leeza found the note in her daughter’s lunch box.
Shocked By The Actions Of The School
Until the day she found the note in her daughter’s empty lunch box, Leeza never really had an issue with their hometown of Aurora, Colorado. Her family had never experienced any kind of judgment. Life had pretty much always been good.
That’s why she was so surprised when she read the note from the administration at Aurora’s Children’s Academy. She felt that the school had overstepped their boundaries. This resulted in a mother fighting for her right to feed her daughter.
Dream School Ends Up As A Nightmare
Leeza sent her daughter, Natalee, to the Children’s Academy because she thought it was the best school for her. The academy seemed like the perfect place at first, but after the incident with her daughter’s lunch, things changed.
There days, Leeza feels as if it is more of a nightmare than the dream school she thought her daughter was attending. The nightmare started simply because Leeza was in a hurry one morning when she packed Natalee’s lunch.
A Choice Facility
The Children’s Academy & Childcare Center in Aurora, Colorado is one of the most popular preschools in the area. Many people want to get their kids into the school but the facility only accepts a limited number.
That’s why Leeza Pearson felt so lucky that Natalee would get to attend. It was the perfect place to start an early education. An education there would give her a head start over all those public school kids.
Everything Was Going Fine, At First
After Natalee began to attend The Children’s Academy everything seemed to be going great. Leeza’s daughter was getting a quality education while she personally worked toward a long-time goal of getting her own degree.
She had no complaints about Natalee’s preschool. In short, life was good. What happened next was a disgraceful turn of events for both Leeza Pearson and her daughter. Like most parents, Leeza was absolutely outraged.
A Horrible Friday
For the majority of Natalee’s first school year, Leeza and her husband had no complaints about The Children’s Academy. The service was living up to the reputation that caused Leeza and her family so much excitement when Natalie first got accepted to attend.
If a friend asked her where they should send their own children to preschool, Leeza had no problem recommending Children’s Academy. That all changed on a fateful Friday. The school did something that no one would be able to believe.
Not Enough Hours In The Day
Like many mothers, Leeza stayed extremely busy keeping up with a daily “to-do” list. On the Friday morning of the incident, she was rushed in packing Natalee’s lunch and realized that she had run out of fruits and vegetables.
She didn’t much additional thought and planned on stocking up over the weekend. She sent Natalee on her way, not expecting that the day would end in a controversial drama. A day just like any other suddenly erupted into something unexpected.
Leeza sent Natalee to school that morning with lunch that consisted of a ham and cheese sandwich, some string cheese and the bag of notorious Oreos. This sounds pretty normal to me and anyone who grew up with a packed lunch.
When the school began pointing fingers at her and her choice of menu, she replied by stating that she usually includes a fruit or veggie in Natalee’s lunch but that she’d been particularly rushed that morning.
Are Oreos A Big Deal?
Many feel that the school overstepped their bounds when they questioned Leeza’s decision to include Oreo’s in Natalee’s lunch. It wasn’t a bad lunch. It lacked some greens, but that happens once in awhile. After all, how bad can they actually be?
As it turns out, they’re one of the unhealthiest cookies you can purchase at a supermarket. But the question stands—did the school have a right to intervene the way they did? A few of these cookies aren’t going to make or break anyone.
Natalee Comes Home Hungry
Leeza certainly didn’t expect Leeza to come home from school complaining that she was hungry, but that’s just what happened. Leeza didn’t understand why because she’d packed a lunch for her daughter.
When she opened Natalee’s lunch box to investigate further, she found the unopened bag of Oreos and something else she wasn’t expecting—a note from the school. It was quite a surprise, but it was even more of a surprise when she read the note.
The Contents Of The Letter
She picked up the note and was expecting perhaps a nice message. That sadly wasn’t the case. The note Leeza found in Natalee’s lunch box read, “Dear Parents, it is very important that all students have a nutritious lunch.”
It further stated, 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 decided to share her experience on social media.
Sharing The Contents Of The Note
Leeza was furious at the contents of the note. She couldn’t believe that the school would attempt to dictate what she fed her daughter, let alone reprimand her for containing items that they didn’t think were appropriate.
This was very evident by the portion of the note that read “Lunchables, chips, fruit snacks and peanut butter are not considered to be a healthy snack.” She had to withhold herself from doing something crazy. She sat and thought of how to handle the situation.
Leeza’s Post Gets Some Attention
When Leeza posted the details of the incident and contents of the note online she wasn’t sure what kind of response she would get. As it turned out, she got an overwhelming amount of support, even from friends she hadn’t heard from in several years.
People found the whole situation ridiculous and Leeza was thrilled to know that she had so much support from her community. Most parents would be just as outraged in Leeza’s situation and they showed it.
The School’s Intentions
According to the school, they had only the best of intentions and didn’t mean to offend her. In the last several decades, obesity has become a very serious concern in the United States, especially in the case of children. Schools have found the need to step in.
Where obesity was once an occasional health concern among the population, it’s now become a norm. The staff at Children’s Academy thought they were acting to protect the health and wellbeing of Natalee.
Healthy Foods And School Intervention Is Nothing New
It is important to help provide a healthy lifestyle for our children, including their nutritional needs. The incident with Leeza Pearson and the Children’s Academy isn’t the first time schools have intervened in kids’ diets.
Programs like the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act have dictated the meal programs in schools since 2010. That kind of federal program is likely what sparked the school to take action when they saw Natalee’s Oreos.
Healthier Foods Make For A Better Education
It would seem that science is on the side of the school in this case. After all, it’s been proven that sugary, unhealthy foods (like Oreos) do indeed hinder a child’s efficiency and ability to learn. This put ours whole country at risk of failer.
On the other hand, healthy fruits and vegetables increase a child’s learning capacity. According to an NYU professor, “Students who eat regular, healthy meals are less likely to be tired, are more attentive in class and retain more information.”
No Parent Wants To Be Judged
While most parents would agree that they want the best for their children, including their dietary needs, no parent wants to be judged by others regarding the way they raise their kids, especially by the school their children attend.
And while The Children’s Academy may have had good intentions, their actions left Leeza staying up at night and feeling like she was a bad parent. No undeserving parent should have to feel that way. She was obviously a very good mother.
Good Intentions Vs. Taking It Too Far
After Leeza’s situation started to gain more and more attention, she made some appearances on local news outlets. She said that she understood where the school was coming from, and even supported their goal of keeping kids healthy.
That said, she felt as if they’d gone over the top with the contents of the note. It made her feel “ashamed,” and that she felt it was wrong for the school to dictate what her daughter ate. Would she get the apology that she was hoping for?
The School Crossed A Line
Leeza felt that the school had crossed a line when they attempted to tell Natalee what she could or could not eat. It isn’t their job to parent the children, it is their job to teach them. She was going to say something and make sure that they understood.
Leeza said, “What the school thinks is healthy for her is not what I think is healthy for her. She needs to eat what she’s going to eat. That’s between me and her and our doctor – not the school.” Anyone could see the reason in her statement.
Natalee Is A Healthy Child
The school’s decision would have likely been more accepted if Natalee showed some signs of obesity. However, it’s clear that she is an active, healthy child with no major obvious nutrition deficiencies.
Leeza feels that’s what makes the accusations so humiliating and offensive. Was one bag of Oreos enough to warrant such a response? We don’t think so, but this is what they definitely felt it was enough to warrent their behavior.
Leeza Stands By Her Choice
Natalee is in extremely good health and that’s what made it so hard for Leeza to accept the situation. Natalee wasn’t on the oreo diet. She wasn’t eating only cookies and cakes. Natalee was a very balanced young child.
Plus, it was obvious that she wasn’t providing Natalee with an exclusive diet of Oreos. “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,” she said.
What really made Leeza’s blood boil is that on several occasions the school had offered Natalee sugary treats on various special days. It’s no surprise that she felt the contents of the note were extremely hypocritical.
So the school had the right to give her daughter sweets, but she didn’t. In an interview with ABC News, Leeza said, “They say I can’t decide what to feed her but then they sometimes feed her junk food.”
Leeza Takes A Stand
It didn’t take long for Leeza’s story to get plenty of public attention. When news outlets started to ask for interviews, Leeza decided to take a stand and defend her decision to include the cookies in Natalee’s lunch.
In one interview, Leeza said, “We’re not the parents that send junk food every day. She has a full, healthy lunch. And this was Friday! Why not give her a special treat?” Apparently, the shcool was not okay with her mothering methods.
A History Of Bad Food In Schools
It’s easy to see the hypocrisy in the school’s actions. After all, until recent years, the food served in schools was notoriously bad for kids. We’d get mystery meat, soggy pizza and rotten milk. Who are the schools to talk at the end of the day.
Children would frequently be served “mystery meats” and other strange selections that were manufactured and canned in factories, only to be reheated in a school’s cafeteria. It was also very common for sugary candy to be distributed in classrooms.
The School’s Response
Eventually, the news coverage became great enough that the school needed to take action. When it came time for the school to issue a response regarding the note, Brenda Dean, the director at Children’s Academy made a statement that would settle things a bit.
She said that she agreed that parents should not feel shamed the way Leeza had. She went on to say that putting passive-aggressive notes in children’s lunch boxes is not normal practice and that she would be investigating who was responsible.
Not Everyone Sees It Leeza’s Way
Things were not completely as Natalee let on. Not everyone was so quick to support Leeza’s reaction, especially when more details came to light. As it turns out, Natalee was offered alternative lunch options, she just chose not to eat them.
In other words, the school didn’t force Natalee to go home hungry. They gave just took her sweets away and gave her a very healthy option. All the school did was prevent her from eating the Oreos. They wanted
Was It Just An Unfortunate Misunderstanding?
According to Patti Moon, Aurora Public School’s Chief Communications Officer, the school simply wanted to keep Leeza—and all the parents—advised of healthy dietary choices for their children, but that actions should not be forced upon kids like Natalee.
However, she also made a point to mention the school did offer Natalee another choice so that she didn’t have to return home hungry. This caused many people to take a second look at the story and draw to different conclusions.
Was It All Just The Stance Of A Stubborn Child?
Based on the details provided by the school, it would seem that the incident escalated whenever Natalee refused to eat the alternative meal that the school provided. She downright refused that alternative meal.
Natalee elected to sit and go hungry instead of giving in to the school and eating the meal they provided. Still, should the school have allowed a preschooler to take such a stand and then write a note that implicated the parents?
The Relationship Seems To Have Been Mended
While the issue got plenty of attention from those supporting both sides of the argument, it would seem that, for now, both Leeza and Children’s Academy have come to terms and moved on from the unfortunate situation.
Natalee has started elementary school, and life, as it were, has moved on. The important thing is that both the school and Leeza have taken it as a learning experience. From this point further, she would keep a better eye on her daughter.
All Is Well For Everyone Involved
In the end, everyone did learn from the incident and life is good. Leeza’s family is happy and at peace. Nobody is questioning her parenting anymore and she is free to feed her young daughters as she wants.
Meanwhile, The Children’s Academy took a hard look at its policies regarding its students’ nutrition and they’ve put measures in place to ensure that while educating families about healthy eating is important, there won’t be any more letters going home in lunch boxes.