Connecticut School District Substitutes 'Health and Wellness' Programs for Arts and Music Curriculum

We have all heard the story, this week, of the young child in North Carolina whose lunch, made at home by her mother, was deemed “unacceptable” by the nutrition officer at her school. Unfortunately, this incident, a direct result of Michelle Obama’s success inpassing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act at the end of the last Congress, is only one of many. The slow creep of government intervention into our refrigerators and our lives moves ahead.

On Tuesday of this week, the school board in Bristol, Connecticut voted, 5-4, to cut back on music classes in every middle school in the district, despite the outrage of parents and students. Beginning next year, middle school students will lose 15 music classes, but others will be added in their place. And, what might those new classes be?

The Bristol school board has decided that middle school students will now be required to take Health and Wellness classes, and they will now have to choose between art, band, or chorus. Of course, many children do not want to make that choice, especially the creative kids who are drawn to the arts in general.

“Music is my team. I don’t do sports. Music is where I feel I fit in,” said 12 year-old Dylan Cushing, a saxophone player.

But, Phil Streifer, the Superintendent of the Bristol school system, apparently one of those educators who knows what’s best for children, said, “Students’ experience will change. I don’t think they will suffer.” Streifer said there is much to gain with the new requirements. “Particularly for bullying, nutrition, and alcohol abuse,” he added.

It’s hard to imagine that Superintendent Streifer believes classes in diet and alcohol abuse will get a 12 year-old saxophonist excited about learning, or that students in his district will be getting a better education as a result of the changes.

In fact, young Dylan Cushing said that he will try to get into a magnet school instead.

The four members of Bristol’s school board who voted to slash the Health and Wellness classes are newly elected Republicans. Those who voted for the curriculum changes blamed scheduling and budgetary problems.

While this is a story about one small school district in the United States, it is really a story about all government schools. The new law requires all educational agencies that participate in the National School Lunch Program or other child nutrition program- meaning those schools that receive funding for free lunch programs- to establish local school wellness policies that promote student health and reduce childhood obesity.

The rules of the law are as follows:

At a minimum, a local school wellness policy must–

• Include goals for nutrition promotion and education, physical activity, and other school-based activities that promote student wellness

• Include nutrition guidelines to promote student health and reduce childhood obesity for all foods available in each school district

• Permit parents, students, representatives of the school food authority, teachers of physical education, school health professionals, the school board, school administrators, and the general public to participate in the development, implementation, and review and update of the local wellness policy

• Inform and update the public (including parents, students, and others in the community) about the content and implementation of local wellness policies

• Be measured periodically on the extent to which schools are in compliance with the local wellness policy, the extent to which the local education agency’s local wellness policy compares to model local school wellness policies, and the progress made in attaining the goals of the local wellness policy, and make this assessment available to the public.

It’s also important to know that the same Institute of Medicine that has provided cover to Kathleen Sebelius for all the mandates within ObamaCare is also responsible for the report, Preventing Childhood Obesity, that is the foundation for Michelle Obama’s legislation.

As for the new required classes in bullying and alcohol abuse, it’s likely that kids like Dylan, who are passionate about their interests, and granted the time to engage with other kids who share them, are not doing much bullying, drinking, or drugging. How about sending the kids who have these issues to “required” classes which focus on these behaviors, while allowing Dylan to continue to play his saxophone? Enough of this one-size-fits-all, mandate mentality.

Congratulations to the four Republican members of Bristol’s school district for truly standing up for the educational needs of their children. At least the parents of the town of Bristol, Connecticut now know who is truly on their side. Perhaps they will vote in more like them.