Parents raise ruckus over ‘quiet’ rule for kids
by Lindsay Field
October 06, 2012 01:46 AM | 17292 views | 91 91 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — One Rocky Mount Elementary School parent said a meeting hosted by Principal Gail May on Thursday didn’t ease her mind about new “quiet lunch” rules and said she’s considering sending her child to a different school.

“I do not feel any better,” Laura Stubbs said. “It is not in the best interest of the children.”

She was one of about 50 parents who attended the meeting at the northeast Cobb kindergarten through fifth-grade school to find out more about why May implemented a “quiet lunch” and one of about 115 people who have signed the online petition “Rocky Mount Quiet Time Needs to Stop!”

Under the new rules, a TV screen in the cafeteria cycles through pictures telling students to either “whisper talk” or be quiet.

“They have five minutes of quiet and then a little bell rings, the cue, then they have five minutes of whisper talk,” May said.

The students’ lunchtime is 30 minutes long, but those who finish early are taken outside to sit in a play area.

“Once they get out there, they must sit down,” she said. “This is where there has also been a bone of contention, because the students have to sit on their bottoms. The purpose is because if they sit on their knees, knees turn into knee walking, etc.”

May said the practice’s aim is to make noise “tolerable” during lunchtime, which is between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.

“Loud cafeterias are a perpetual, systemic problem for every school,” May said. “In elementary school, we all struggle with the noise level because children just have a difficult time regulating that.”

May said the cafeteria would otherwise be so loud it disrupts nearby classrooms in the 600-student school.

May said they school has tried different methods to control the noise level in the lunchroom, including putting red cones on tables the first 10 minutes of lunch to indicate quiet time or using red, yellow and green cups to show when a student can talk or whisper.

“The challenge with those things is that it’s pretty labor intensive,” she said.

May said parents have complained to her about the changes.

“We have a small handful of parents who have taken this on and feel very strongly about it,” she said. “I’ve heard some of their descriptions about how the children are feeling … I’m in that cafeteria every day and in this building. I look at the kids and they are happy.”

Rocky Mount parent Tonya Neilson said the administration was not upfront with parents about the new practice.

“If she had just come to the parents and not tried to hide it, they wouldn’t have been so upset,” said Neilson, whose son is a first-grader at Rocky Mount.

Neilson said the rule isn’t always enforced.

She said that when she went to lunch with her son, she saw children talking during “quiet time,” and while children were not punished when she was there, she has heard from other parents that on other days students were threatened with either walking the track or being put at the silent table.

“We want the rule that’s working to be the one that’s being enforced,” she said.

Neilson said she told Area Assistant Superintendent Ed Thayer about her concerns, but he told her that he “respected (May’s) authority and would not make any changes.”

However, Neilson said she left the meeting Thursday feeling she had been heard and appreciates May trying to communicate better with parents.

“I am not out to make Mrs. May’s life miserable,” she said. “I did speak and was heard during the meeting. I don’t know if everyone feels this way, but I did address the issue.”

Another parent who attended the Thursday meeting but asked not to be identified said she was concerned about the new rule because her fourth-grade daughter was coming home saying she didn’t like school anymore.

“We know that they are there for learning, but (my daughter) used to like lunchtime because she could talk to her friends without getting into trouble,” the mother said. “We should be encouraging our students to learn social skills.”

She said the meeting was hostile, with May “mocking parents, as if we don’t have our children’s best interests at heart.”

“(Children) should be allowed adequate social time, just like teachers are allowed to take a break, go to their lunchroom and socialize,” she said. “I am just very disappointed at the way it was rolled out.”

May said she did take suggestions from parents on how to resolve the issue but could not say when or if they would be implemented.

Does the quiet lunch plan go too far?


Comments
(91)
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HistoryRepeats2
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October 16, 2012
I'd be curious what this principal's background is - what are her credentials? Where has she worked successfully in the past, or not-so-successfully?
Moving to the area
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October 16, 2012
We just bought a home in the area because of the high school's reputation. I guess we should have spent more time looking at the elementary schools as close as we did the high schools. This issue of a silent lunch room makes me think home schooling may be a better way to go with my two children. Scary that the problem can't be solved where children can have some social time while eating. We don't seem to have the issue where we are currently to the extent Rocky Mount seems to....
Concerned Parent
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October 15, 2012
My son goes to Rocky Mount and today was made to walk laps for the entire recess by the teacher because he forgot a math assignment at home. When I sent an email to the teacher about walking laps the teacher said this practice is okay and approved by the principal. To parents, is making a student walk laps for forgetting an assignment a permitted "punishment"? I am concerned this school is too rigid and making policies that maybe outside the realm of CCSD practices.
anonymous
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October 17, 2012
Was this third grade? I've heard of this happening there as well and it's rubbish. Akin to putting someone in solitary for running a stop light.
HeidiTS
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October 15, 2012
What a crazy policy. Kids NEED to have their time off from the intense school rules imposed in the classroom. They should get to talk normally at lunch and then run and play after. I don't understand why so many schools in this country have choose to ignore the social aspect of a child, the number one way kids learn: through play. It's seems schools are more concerned with teaching to the test, then engaging in teaching principals that teach well, rounded individuals. Social settings, and dealing with each other, and making friends and PLAY are the most important things children do in order to learn. Why is this concept so hard for educators to grasp? Psychological studies prove it time and time again.
anonymous
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October 10, 2012
The changes that were made were just to appease those at the meeting. The students still sit like zombies and wait for a beep every 5 minutes. And they still have to go outside (unless they ask to stay inside to finish eating) and sit on concrete and play "hand games" - no playing. A few small things were addressed - but it really didn't address the worst part of the situation. I like that the principal says she recognizes that it is still at times, too loud, at the 5 minute intervals. So I guess being too loud every 5 minutes is better? Akin to being being poked in the eye every 5 minutes instead of a solid 20? Aren't the kids down the hall bothered by the volume for the 5 minutes on/off since the principal concedes that they are still too loud then? She has drawn a line in the sand. And if she thinks that kids "looking happy" is an indication of what true happiness is - I'm glad she's not a licensed counselor.
Changes Coming
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October 08, 2012
As a former Cobb County educator, I think the parents have won this battle because the one thing that "CCSD higher ups" don't like is the negative spotlight of the press. Appears to me as though this principal is getting quite a sunburn from this spotlight. I would not be surprised by an "retirement" at the end of the year.
anonymous
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October 09, 2012
We can only hope! Unless this principal can bring back just a LITTLE "warm & fuzzy" to the school - I'm afraid her retirement is the only thing that will help. I know I don't have to tell you @Changes Coming, but it seems so many don't understand that without well-rounded growth (social, emotional, academic, etc.)...their academic test scores mean nothing. Think about it (again, not directing this at you @Changes Coming) - when is the last time you spoke to a doctor/politician/etc. that had years of formal education - but little to no social skills to convey what they know in a rational and sensible manner? It's disturbing... Fighting for our children to be able to talk at lunch isn't about giving them their way (as some have purported)...it's about investing in the future that they might be able to take what they have learned IN the classroom and apply it in a meaningful way in the real world.
Gonefishin25
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October 08, 2012
Kim Burrow | October 06, 2012

115 parents have signed the petition, and 50 attended the meeting. There are over 1200 parents at Rocky Mount. How can you say that "a majority" of parents are "outraged"?

There are about 400 families at RM so unless there are three parents per family...might wanna check your math
Afraid to Speak
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October 09, 2012
Thank you Gonefishin25. And there are a lot of families that are afraid to speak up. As a matter of fact, there was a father in the meeting who said he was there representing five other families he had spoken to who were too intimidated to come to the meeting.
Off the List
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October 08, 2012
Schools to cross off the list when searching for a new house - due to helicopter parents:

Sope Creek- don't touch the precious germ covered murals our children painted years ago

Rocky Mount
anonymous
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October 09, 2012
How clever of you! Choose a school (or not) based on the parents rather than academic excellence! (rolls eyes)
anonymous
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October 09, 2012
The same two schools would be crossed off for academic purposes.
HeidiTS
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October 15, 2012
Are you saying the parents who are against this inane policy are heliocopter parents? Hardly. This policy goes against how children learn. I wish people would become edcuated on the actual needs of children inside of just blindly following all the rules implemented by the powers that be. Children should come first, they manner in which they learn must be considered, not just creating robots.
Catrina T
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October 08, 2012
Well this no longer concerns my family since we have pulled out of CCSD and are homeschooling. RM was part of our lives for 6 yrs. I spent many days up there helping and have eaten more than I would have liked in the cafeteria. Yes there are days that it is loud and they would flicker the lights or turn off to quiet the room. Our 3rd year in they made the rule that after the kids eat for 20 mins they go sit outside. They used to play and could visit with all their friends before coming back in. Well now they must sit and can't move around. Several teachers avoid the scheduled recess time with the other classes since it is too crazy for them. So these children are left with very little time to visit with their friends. When we made the decision to homeschool, many people asked out socialization. Well how much do they really do in public school anyway? Everywhere they are, they are told to be quiet. None of their energy is being expended so that they CAN concentrate and really learn.

I hope the administration and the parents can find a happy medium and work this out.
Watcher...
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October 08, 2012
FLOTUS, Michelle Obama, has demanded and gotten adjustments in School Lunch Programs.

Is CCSD "quiet" time a demand of FLOTUS.

If so, IGNORE it!
Terrific Minded
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October 09, 2012
Isn't it funny how everybody wants to point a finger. Parents, sit down with your kids at home around the dinner table and practice proper table manners. This would help in the school setting.

Then the RM principal wouldn't have to have silent lunch all the time. What is your solution.

Go and volunteer to see what is going on instead of whining about whether or not your child gets to talk to his or her friends at lunch. Do it at RECESS!
anonymous
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October 08, 2012
They are just trying to get the kids used to life once they are in prison. Can't talk at lunch in prison, so there is no need to start that bad habit now.

These friggin' nazicrat "educators" are unhinged.

Watcher...
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October 08, 2012
It appears that some parts of CCSD are trying to become as despised as the TSA!

TSA continually tries to push the envelop to demand arbitrary, strict and absolute obedience of the American People!
Janelle Johnson
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October 08, 2012
I am a victim of "quiet time" lunches. I remember it well and it was horrid. School is supposed to be an environment for educational & social learning. We were made to feel like we were in prison. We couldn't talk in class, we couldn't talk at lunch. It was abuse! If you don't like the sound of children's voices then eat in the teacher's lounge. It is inhumane and cruel, you don't do that to children! If we got caught talking we were paddled. I hated school!
Jason Dominy
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October 08, 2012
For Pete's sake, just let the kids be kids! I mean, come on, this isn't even high school! How are they supposed to build and develop properly socially if they can't even talk to the fellow kids they go to school with. I mean, seriously. This is ridiculous, and these are not robots. They are living, breathing children who deserve to be able to talk to their fellow schoolmates at least one part of the day. Again, let the kids be kids.
New Mama
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October 08, 2012
So, the children are silent for part of their lunch break? And, what is all the chatter about the silent hallways and silent morning routine? I am interested because I have a 4 year old who would be attending this school next year. I am now starting to research homeschooling. I am not interested in sending my child to a place such as this. How can she learn to respect others if she is not given respect? Nauseating
Hey New Mama
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October 08, 2012
To homeschool requires a degree major in ignorance with a minor in stupidity. Sounds like you qualify.
@Hey New Mama
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October 08, 2012
Sounds like you're the one with the problem with ignorance and stupidity! Homeschooling is a great option for those willing to do the work and supervision necessary to give their children a great education. It allows families great flexibility in scheduling and lessons can be tailored to life as it's happening, rather than generating imaginary scenarios, which may or not be realistic.

Go for it, New Mama! There are also great resources out there to help you.
Dear New Mama
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October 08, 2012
I applaud you for your bravery and your independent thinking. And "Hey New Mama", are you an administrator or a teacher's union rep?
Rastis
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October 09, 2012
Ah yes, today's homeschoolers educating tomorrow's Walmart hourly employees.
New Mama
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October 09, 2012
It is very interesting to read these comments, even the ones that are condescending and rude. What happened to you that caused you to have a chip on your shoulder? I can promise you one thing - if we decide to homeschool, our child(ren) will get a top notch education. My husband and I are college graduates,and quite capable of teaching our children.
tire of it
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October 10, 2012
@ hey new mama considering the public schools are a joke these days, homeschooling or private (christian schools) you get a much better education.

I personally didnt have the patience to homeschool my kids but I praise anyone who does.
Laura Armstrong
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October 08, 2012
This story and the silent rule disturbed me when I read it, and the comments from parents and others posted here are even more disturbing.

Isn't there a happy medium here? I'm back in elementary school again with my younger children and nothing has changed that much in the cafeteria since 1996. So what's the problem at Rocky Mount that the principal has resorted to absolute silence and cooperation or a child will be isolated and punished for simply talking? Maybe parents need to talk with their kids at home and explain about the cafeteria being a quiet place, like a restaurant. Kids usually respond well to earnest explanations about having manners if it's reinforced enough. How about an incentive system, with maybe ice cream for the quietest table at the end of the week, or even a simple quiet certificate or special table decoration....has the principal already tried these methods?

Can the adults agree that talking should be ok, even in large cafeterias... but not yelling or other bad behavior?

My kindergartener, a big talker, comes home with a half-uneaten lunch. She says she has no time to eat. I know she's talking, but do I want absolute silence in the lunchroom? NO way. Kids need to talk, and should not be treated like little automatons, and parents should be able to discuss without getting nasty. However one feels about "east Cobb," the nasty stereotypes posted here are really immature. Every school should have the expectation that kids will behave as well as being treated with respect. East Cobb or Powder Springs...it should not matter.
OSHA?
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October 08, 2012
Not sure how loud it gets in that lunchroom, but CCSD had better look ito making sure that OSHA rules are followed for its employees! Perhaps an audit is in order...
Asok Asus
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October 07, 2012
Just be thankful they haven't implement the Two Minute Hate yet!
JennAcworth
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October 07, 2012
How is thinking kids should be allowed to get some chattiness out of their systems during lunch break "permissiveness"? Public school children are expected to act disciplined all day long. They must get up around 6am (some children even earlier), get ready for school, stand at a bus stop in the freezing cold or pouring rain, sit in a classroom for eight hours a day, and only have time to wiggle around and talk with their friends during a few periods throughout the day. I've heard many schools have done away with recess now, so we're now expecting them to zip their lips during lunch period as well?

Sounds to me like this is a design flaw with the school. Our cafeterias were always a flurry of chatter and activity, and they never bothered nearby classrooms, and in fifth grade the cafeteria was on the wall opposite of our classroom. We never heard a peep, save for when classes would line up in the hallway for lunch.

Imagine being told you cannot move around or speak your entire eight-hour work shift and see how you feel. If you wouldn't like it, then why expect children just out of Pull-Ups to do it?
Voice of Reason
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October 08, 2012
Thank you so much for your comment. Finally someone with some common sense. It isn't about silent lunch anymore. There is an arrival until dismissal silent day effort in effect. It is so sad because we are discussing 5 to 11 year old boys and girls. Little boys are not made to sit still for 7 hours at a time - nor are little girls for that matter. And the attempt to suppress opposition opinions is really quite frightening.
Ren McCormick
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October 07, 2012
Why stop there? Why not ban dancing within the city limits?
Ariel P.K.
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October 08, 2012
Amen, Ren!
Rev. Shaw Moore
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October 08, 2012
Can it McCormick! You think I'm going to allow a dance after you smashed up those tractors? And stay away from my daughter Ariel
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