New Mexico law directs schools not to embarrass children when parents have not paid for their lunches

“In what its supporters say is the first such legislation in the country, New Mexico has outlawed shaming children whose parents are behind on school lunch payments,” the New York Times reports.

On Thursday, Gov. Susana Martinez signed the Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights, which directs schools to work with parents to pay their debts or sign up for federal meal assistance and puts an end to practices meant to embarrass children. It applies to public, private and religious schools that receive federal subsidies for students’ breakfasts and lunches.

The law’s passage is a victory for anti-hunger activists, who have long been critical of lunch-shaming practices that single out children with insufficient funds on their electronic swipe cards or who lack the necessary cash. These practices can include making the child wear a wrist band or requiring the child to perform chores in exchange for a meal.

In some cases, cafeteria workers have been ordered to throw away the hot lunches of children who owed money, giving them alternatives like sandwiches, milk and fruit.

This issue was also covered on the Today Show: ‘School lunch shaming’ is now against the law in New Mexico.

The search for usable advice from nutrition science

Two new books on nutrition, The Secret Life of Fat, by Sylvia Tara, and The Case Against Sugar, by Gary Taubes are reviewed in a recent New Yorker:  Is Fat Killing You, or Is Sugar?  “Both present a range of cutting-edge dietary research, both say that fat is unfairly maligned, and both inadvertently end up revealing that the science behind their claims is complex and its findings hard to translate into usable advice,” Jerome Groopman says.

Tara’s book provides useful information on the biology of fat. White fat stores energy. Brown fat burns energy for body heat. Groopman reports:

A third type, beige fat, was identified some five years ago; during exercise, it receives messages from our muscles to morph into brown fat. Moreover, fat should not be characterized simply as inert blubber. It is the vehicles by which our cells receive certain essential nutrients, like Vitamins A, D,. E., and K. The myelin sheaths around our nerves are eighty per cent lipids, “which means fat is actually required to think,” Tara writes. Studies by Jeffrey Friedman, at the Rockefeller University, have shown that the hormone leptin travels from fat cells to the hypothalamus, a part of the brain which is involved in regulating appetite. ‘Friedman’s discovery redefined fat,” Tara writes. “It was a verifiable endocrine organ with wide influence to our bodies. Through leptin, fat could talk. It could tell the brain to stop eating.”

However, Groopman concludes that Tara’s speculation that viruses may cause obesity relies on research that is obscure and unconvincing.

In The Case Against Sugar, Gary Taubes argues that dietary sugar is the cause of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other illnesses. Groopman says:

Ultimately, Taubes’s indictment of sugar as the leading culprit in virtually all modern Western maladies doesn’t provide enough evidence for us to convict. That doesn’t mean sugar is without dangers: it certainly plays a role in the development of obesity, to say nothing of dental cavities. But these are lesser charges, and they make for a less dramatic headline.

Maryland school calendars updated

The Washington Post reports on the school calendar changes in Montgomery County and Prince George’s County:

Montgomery County school officials reset the final day of classes for next school year and shortened two teacher workdays as part of a new plan to meet Gov. Larry Hogan’s order that Maryland schools extend their summer recess through Labor Day.

The county’s school board voted unanimously this week to revise the system’s 2017-2018 academic calendar so that classes, which will start Sept. 5, will end June 12 unless severe weather forces school closings during the year.

“Chris Lloyd, president of the county teachers’ union, estimated that educators will lose about eight hours of grading and planning time during the instructional year,” the Post reported.

Prince George’s County officials announced their plans for next year on Tuesday: School will start Sept. 6 and end June 13. But makeup days for snow and other inclement weather could potentially extend the school year to June 14 or 15, shift the Presidents’ Day holiday on Feb. 19 to a school day or, as a last resort, shorten spring break by as much as two days.

Parents ask for more time for recess and physical education

Recess supporters pack school board meeting. The Prince William Times reports that about 50 parents and their children demonstrated their support of more time for recess and physical education at a Prince William County School Board meeting held January 18.

Block scheduling proposal is controversial in Arlington school

Jay Matthews reports that parents are questioning a proposed change to block scheduling at Williamsburg Middle School in Arlington.

I began writing about block scheduling 20 years ago, when the idea was quickly adopted by most Washington-area high schools. Policymakers felt that teachers could be more thoughtful and creative in much longer periods. Research since has shown no significant differences in achievement rates between students using traditional and block schedules. I asked Arlington officials for studies that support the reform but got none.

Middle schools have been less eager than high schools to adopt block schedules. They are still dealing with basics, where repetition has value. Williamsburg is a great school that might make it work, but not without additional discussion and clarity about the level of support.

 

Poll shows split on school start times in Utah

Utahns split on later school start times. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that a poll of 655 registered voters in Utah showed “41 percent agreed that schools should start later, while 49 percent disagreed, and 10 percent said they did not know.”

CDC and SHAPE publish guidelines on recess

What are the best policies for recess in grades K-12? This question was recently answered by two new publications from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SHAPE America—Society of Healthy and Physical Educators. Strategies for Recess in Schools and Recess Planning in Schools: A Guide to Putting Strategies for Recess Into Practice, can be downloaded free of charge at shapeamerica.org/recess.

Here are some of the suggestions:

➤Prohibiting the replacement of physical education with recess or using recess to meet time requirements for physical education policies.
➤Providing schools and students with adequate spaces, facilities, equipment, and supplies for recess.
➤Ensuring that spaces and facilities for recess meet or exceed recommended safety standards.
➤Prohibiting the exclusion of students from recess for disciplinary reasons or academic performance in the classroom.
➤Prohibiting the use of physical activity during recess as punishment.
➤Providing recess before lunch.
➤Providing staff members who lead or supervise recess with ongoing professional development.

“This is a milestone in our quest to increase children’s physical activity levels. Daily recess, monitored by well-trained staff or volunteers, can optimize a child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development,” says SHAPE America Chief Executive Officer E. Paul Roetert, Ph.D. “Recess contributes to the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity for students and helps them apply the knowledge and skills they learn in an effective health and physical education program. In addition, recess supports 50 Million Strong, SHAPE America’s commitment to empower all kids to lead active and healthy lives.”

Strategies for Recess in Schools defines recess and identifies 19 evidence-based strategies schools can implement that increase student physical activity and academic achievement. Although most of the evidence and expert opinion for these strategies came from elementary schools, many of the strategies are also applicable to secondary schools. The intent is for school staff or groups working with schools to identify what is currently happening or not happening with recess in their school, and then use this information to develop a recess plan that serves all students.

Recess Planning in Schools: A Guide to Putting Strategies for Recess Into Practice complements the strategies document by guiding schools through the process of developing a written recess plan that incorporates the identified strategies. In addition, CDC and SHAPE America developed a customizable Recess Planning Template, which enables schools to record details of how they will organize and implement recess at school.

Garrett County schools to start before Labor Day

“The Maryland State Board of Educated recently approved a waiver request that will allow schools in Garret County to start before Labor Day for the 2017-18 year,”  WCBC reports. “The county was eligible to request a waiver because it had closed 10 days per year during two of the last five years due to severe weather conditions.”

Advocates push for later start times and longer recess

Advocates for later start times and a longer recess testified recently before the Eden Prairie School Board in Minnesota. Speaking at the January 23 meeting, several people testified that 20 minutes was not a long enough time for recess. Some also spoke in favor of later start times for middle and high school students in this Minnesota school district.

 

National Popular Vote Compact fails to pass this year in Virginia

This month a bill to have Virginia join the National Popular Vote Compact was introduced in the House of Delegates by Delegates Marcus B. Simon, Kaye Kory, Mark H. Levine, Delores L. McQuinn, Kenneth R. Plum, Marcia S. “Cia” Price, Sam Rasoul, Luke E. Torian, Rosylyn C. Tyler, and Vivian Watts. The Senate patrons were George L. Barker, Adam P. Ebbin, Janet D. Howell, and Scott A Surovell.

Virginia’s Legislative Information System gives this summary of HB 1482 Presidential electors; National Popular Vote Compact:

Summary as Introduced:

Presidential electors; National Popular Vote Compact. Enters Virginia into an interstate compact known as the Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote. Article II of the United States Constitution gives the states exclusive and plenary authority to decide the manner of awarding their electoral votes. Under the compact, Virginia agrees to award its electoral votes to the presidential ticket that receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The compact goes into effect when states cumulatively possessing a majority of the electoral votes have joined the compact. A state may withdraw from the compact; however, a withdrawal occurring within six months of the end of a President’s term shall not become effective until a President or Vice President has qualified to serve the next term.

HB 1482 was referred to the House Committee on Privileges and Elections and then to the Subcommittee on elections. On January 24 the subcommittee vetoed against the bill, killing it for this session. So we will have to wait until next year to see another chance for this much-needed reform.

Three cheers for the sponsors of the bill. Be sure and support them and encourage more efforts next year.