ORCHARD, Texas – A third-grader at Brazos Elementary was given a week’s detention for possessing a Jolly Rancher.
School officials in Brazos County are defending the seemingly harsh sentence. The school’s principal and superintendent said they were simply complying with a state law that limits junk food in schools.
But the girl’s parents say it’s a huge overreaction.
“I think it’s stupid to give a kid a week’s worth of detention for a piece of candy,” said Amber Brazda, the girl’s mother. "The whole thing was just ridiculous to me."
Leighann Adair, 10, was eating lunch Monday when a teacher confiscated the candy. Her parents said she was in tears when she arrived home later that afternoon and handed them the detention notice.
According to the disciplinary referral, she would be separated from other students during lunch and recess through Friday.
Jack Ellis, the superintendent for Brazos Independent School District, declined an on-camera interview. But he said the school was abiding by a state guideline that banned “minimal nutrition” foods.
“Whether or not I agree with the guidelines, we have to follow the rules,” he said.
The state, however, gives each school discretion over how to enforce the policy. Ellis said school officials had decided a stricter punishment was necessary after lesser penalties failed to serve as a deterrent.
Ellis said failing to adhere to the state’s guidelines could put federal funding in jeopardy.
According to the Texas Department of Agriculture’s website, “The Texas Public School Nutrition Policy (TPSNP) explicitly states that it does not restrict what foods or beverages parents may provide for their own children's consumption.”
Brazos Elementary Principal Jeanne Young, said the problem, in this instance, was that the candy was provided by another student – not the girl’s parents.
The girl’s mother said the incident has taught her daughter a lesson, but not the one her teachers intended.
“I told her, ‘Leighann, unfortunately you’re learning very young that life’s not fair,'” Brazda said.
For more information about the state’s policy and its exceptions, click here.