A Tuscon, Arizona, mother spoke out after her daughter was served pork at school, which she said disrespected her family’s Muslim beliefs. The mother, identified as Nancy, said she felt as though the school’s policy of not accommodating students’ dietary needs based on religion should change.
“I want my religion to matter to you guys. My daughter shouldn’t have to go to school and be fearful of what’s she’s eating,” Nancy said. Her daughter is a second grader at Holiday Elementary school, and went to school with a note from her doctor that said she couldn’t eat pork because of her religion.
In December, however, the girl was reportedly served a bacon cheeseburger. “The lunch lady was like, ‘No, too bad. Just pick it off.’ Picking it off doesn’t work because it’s in the hamburger,” Nancy told Tuscon News Now. The mother went to the school to speak with officials and understand why her daughter was given pork.
“The principal had said because she didn’t wear the traditional clothes and because she’s just a white girl that was going there she didn’t fit that normal stereotype of being Muslim – so it wasn’t obvious for them to follow the guidelines for her,” she said. The mother let it go until early May, when her daughter came home with a cereal bar that contained gelatin – a byproduct of pork.
“And that was part if it. We told them we could send that – but at that same time she doesn’t want to have to be that different child,” the mother said when asked why she didn’t send her daughter to school with a lunch. The Amphitheater Unified School District released a statement to Tuscon News Now regarding the controversy.
Even though the district is not required to accommodate special dietary needs based solely on religious purposes, our district nutritionist and food services staff plan menus that are compliant and meet the various nutritional guidelines, as well as include food options that are the best fit for the food preferences of the school. We encourage families with children with any special dietary needs to make sure they are educating their children about what to look for so they know what is acceptable and what they should avoid.
Our menus are always posted online and you can request the ingredient list for any food item you are unsure about. In situations where there are special food requirements or restrictions, we encourage you to meet with our district nutritionist to discuss the best options for your family. The best way to ensure a meal meets any special dietary needs is to send a meal from home that you have prepared. Every child is different and we do our best to ensure a healthy, accommodating environment for all of our students.
The story quickly went viral, with many criticizing the mother for forcing the school to comply with her religion.
“Hey here’s an idea. If your kid has special dietary needs, you could pack them a lunch and regulate what they eat. When your kid sees you taking the time to pack them a lunch they will know that diet is important to you and that you care enough about them to take the time to make their lunch. Everybody wins,” one reader commented on Facebook.
“I agree with the school. If your child has restrictions, religious or dietary, it is your job as a parent to pay attention to the school’s published menus and send lunches from home that meet your needs,” another added.