Stacey Hara 0

Creating a positive lunch environment for TO 3rd Graders

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Dear Principal Parker,

As parents and guardians of third grade students at Thousand Oaks, we want to collectively express our disappointment with the current lunchroom environment for our children and ask for you to please reconsider your policy.

It has come to our attention that the third grade is singled out with a new "silent lunch" policy, where the students must remain completely silent for the first ten minutes of their 15 minute lunch period. We also are aware through our children that the atmosphere in the lunchroom at this time is highly charged and stressful, with lunchtime supervisors yelling, taking down names and threatening further disciplinary action should a child speak.

While we understand that the "silent lunch" policy originated from significant lunchtime misbehavior that resulted in student safety issues, we are not aligned with the severity of the punishment or the lack of pathways for the third graders to resume a normal lunchtime environment. This situation began as a one-day punishment, then a six-day extension, followed by a permanent policy change for the third grade only, which was not properly communicated to the families of these students.

The outcome of this policy change, and the poor communication around it, is that many of our children dread lunchtime, and feel a lack of trust and resentment toward the lunch staff and school administration. As parents and caregivers, we feel this approach is not only reactive and extreme, but has a negative impact on school culture and our children's ability to focus on learning.

Perhaps most important, from what the children have told us, they have either not been communicated to properly or do not understand clearly what they can or must do to earn their way back to the standard lunchtime environment enjoyed by students in other grades. We would also appreciate if the administration would communicate with us so that we can reinforce these messages at home, and work with you to resolve this situation. The conversations we have had with our kids about this situation have spurred many questions around whether there is adequate staffing for lunch periods, and if our children are given enough time to eat. We hope to have a true dialogue around these issues.

In the meantime, we urge you and the administrative team to reconsider this policy, and instead leverage this as a teachable moment for a more restorative justice approach, whereby the students reflect on their actions, take responsibility and together work to repair harm done to the community. We appreciate how hard the Thousand Oaks teachers and faculty work to foster a cooperative community where the kids are taught to have strong character and respect for others, and then motivated to do so through positive reinforcement. We see little benefit in taking on a completely different behavior management strategy at lunchtime, and singling out the third graders in doing so.

Thank you for your time and consideration, sincerely,

Third Grade Parents and Caregivers

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