6-year-old blackballed over baggie

Le “Ziploc” continue à faire parler… partout au pays!

Revue de presse

Tamsin McMahon, National Post, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011

Isabel A couple in Laval, Que., has sparked a fierce debate over how far schools should go to teach children about environmental responsibility after their six-year-old son was shut out of a kindergarten draw to win a stuffed animal because he had an environmentally unfriendly sandwich bag in his lunch box.

Marc-Andre Lanciault said he hadn't heard of the school's draw or any environmental policy until his wife, Isabel Theoret, was making their son Felix a sandwich and he begged them not to put it in a plastic bag.

Photo ci dessus : Isabel Théorêt wrapped her son’s sandwich in a plastic bag because their Tupperware was all in the dishwasher.(Photo Christinne Muschi for National Post)

"He said, 'No mommy, you can't do that. Not a Ziploc,' " Mr. Lanciault said.

Through tears, the boy told his parents that the school had held a draw to win a stuffed teddy bear and only children who didn't have any plastic sandwich bags could enter.

The family normally uses Tupperware, but it was all in the dishwasher, and so they had packed their son's ham sandwich in a plastic bag.

When Mr. Lanciault questioned his son's teacher, she confirmed the school had staged the draw at a lunchtime daycare and that any student with a plastic sandwich bag was excluded. "You know Mr. Lanciault, it's not very good for the environment," the teacher told him. "We have to take care of our planet and the bags do not decompose well."

Mr. Lanciault said he objects to the fact that a school would penalize a kindergarten pupil for his parents' choice to use non-recyclable lunch containers and that his son hadn't learned any valuable environmental lessons, except to fear plastic bags.

"If we want to teach people about the environment, I can understand that," he said. "But surely there's a better way than to penalize kids. The goal wasn't achieved anyway. At the end of the day, my son doesn't know why he shouldn't use a Ziploc bag. It's not only the bag, it's the whole idea that we're being brainwashed from everywhere. They told us Ziploc bags are bad, so we've stopped thinking about it and just started applying the rule."

The Laval school board didn't respond to repeated interview requests.

The family detailed its experience on its blog and was inundated with nearly 2,000 hits and a flood of comments, many from people who felt the school was right to exclude their son from the draw.

"Many people seem to share our vision that it was not acceptable," he said. "But there's a lot of really pro-green people who don't see the problem behind this."

Programs like "litterless" and "boomerang" lunches -- where children have to bring home any garbage in the lunch box instead of throwing it out at school -- are gaining in popularity, said Eve Duchesne, manager of EcoKids, a program run by Earth Day Canada to encourage kids to learn about the environment.

But while such contests can get kids engaged, they need to be part of a larger curriculum that teaches children about the environment in a positive way, she said. "Any draw, any contest, I think that's too radical."

Schools tread into dangerous territory when they start enforcing environmental messages without understanding the complex scientific arguments behind them, said Jane Shaw, president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in North Carolina and coauthor of Facts, Not Fear: Teaching Children about the Environment, which was adapted for Canadian audiences.

For instance, she said, the debate still rages over whether reusable dishes are really more environmentally friendly than disposable ones, taking into account the water and energy used to wash them.

Schools should focus on teaching kids the fundamentals of science so that they can explore environmental issues themselves and draw their own informed conclusions as they get older, Ms. Shaw said.

Revue de presse publiée par Jacques Lanciault.

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