Policy spurs uproar

Published 10:12 pm Friday, September 28, 2012

Patti Jarriel protests outside Driver Elementary School Friday with her son Jeremiah Jarriel. They say the school lied to children by telling students they couldn’t sell chocolate products from a fundraising catalog to the general public.

Buy as much summer sausage and sugar cookie mix as you like, but if you’re thinking chocolate-covered almonds, milk chocolate caramel rolls or dark chocolate raspberry hearts — or anything else chocolate — think again.

That’s the effect of Suffolk Public Schools’ Wellness Policy as it relates to a fundraiser by Driver Elementary School, and Patti Jarriel isn’t happy.

When two students came to her Bennett’s Creek door with a fundraising catalog recently, the 50-year-old noticed a sticker on the back reading: “Due to the Suffolk Public Schools Wellness Policy, Chocolates May Not Be Sold.”

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Incensed that the school was “teaching children to lie,” Jarriel recruited her 28-year-old son Jeremiah, who attended the school as a child, in a protest outside Driver Elementary. The protest started Monday and will continue, Jarriel says, until the school apologizes to students.

“You do not send kids out and tell them what you can and can’t buy,” she said. “We are not New York City (which recently banned super-sized sodas) — don’t tell us what you can and can’t buy; don’t tell any adult what you can and can’t buy.

“You don’t put your socialist stuff on the American people. If I want a sugar cookie, by God I’m going to buy it.”

The 60-page Great American Opportunities catalog is packed with sugary, calorie-laden treats, and only a small percentage of them were banned from sale for containing chocolate.

District Assistant Superintendent Kevin Alston, who has been on the ground at the protest dealing with parents angry at Jarriel, said the fundraiser banned chocolate because it was for the school, and, theoretically, sales could occur during school hours.

“The Wellness Policy governs only those things that are sold or offered during the school day,” he said, adding that Parent-Teacher Association fundraisers, being apart from actual schools, are not subject to the clause.

“The one at Driver is a school-wide (fundraiser) … which means that although it’s discouraged, some things could be sold during the school day.

“That’s why we have stickers on the books … (and) there’s probably some other things in there we probably should have kept from being sold.”

Jarriel said she is furious mainly because, by instructing students that they can tell adults what they can and can’t purchase from the catalogs, the school is teaching children to lie.

“I’m a Christian — I don’t lie,” she said. “If it starts here, it’s going to continue.”

Driver PTA posted on Facebook that it “fully supports Suffolk Public School’s (sic) Wellness Policy and we support Driver Elementary’s Fundraiser.”

PTA President Shannon Watkins commented on the page: “The Driver PTA thanks all of our parents for their support during this time. Thank you for supporting DES PTA and also for supporting our school, hopefully this gets resolved soon. Hope everyone has a great weekend.”

Alston said that while the Jarriels remained on public land outside the school and continue to move back and forth, so as not to block a public thoroughfare, they were breaking no laws and required no permit.

“Sometimes those people who are the most adamant about exercising their rights forget that other people have rights also,” he said.

“Is what we’re doing detrimental to the kids? We’re trying to help kids.”