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Students React Negatively To The First Lady's Announcement That Their School Would No Longer Serve Unhealthy Fare


Published November 14, 2014


What began as an effort by Michelle Obama to return to safe harbors after the disastrous 2014 election turned into a real fight – a food fight, in fact. 

Ms. Obama’s kerfuffle occurred on Friday when she spoke at Thomas Edison Middle School in Westchester, Texas to promote her healthy school lunch initiative.  Although Texas has not been friendly to the White House, she could not have foreseen flying lunch trays and soaring tater-totters.  By the time she was escorted from the cafeteria, an estimated 75 students engaged in a food fight that embroiled the first lady in an unwelcomed controversy.  Some school administrators and teachers allege that Ms. Obama went too far in retaliating against certain unruly students. 

What sparked the unrest was Ms. Obama’s announcement that the meals the children were eating would be their last “unhealthy” lunches that they would have – perhaps for the remainder of their schooling.  The students responded unfavorably with audible boos and jeering.  One student demanded to see her birth certificate, a reference to the unsubstantiated rumors surrounding the president’s birth certificate.

Then the food began flying.  First, a single tater-totter thrown from the back of the audience flew over Ms. Obama’s right shoulder and hit the black curtain behind her.  The school principal, Martin N. Schweiss, MSW, who was seated behind Ms. Obama pointed in the direction of the source of the projectile and said, “You’re going to pay for that.”  He then escorted the culprit from the cafeteria.  This left Ms. Obama alone with the students, some of whom began throwing more tater-totters in her direction.  Most of the tater-totters fell short, but one struck the podium.  Within 30 seconds, mayhem ensued.

You don’t hit kids unless they have a weapon.”

During the scuffle, students threw pizza, hamburger paddies, mashed potatos and other foodstuffs at both each other and in the direction of the first lady.  Ms. Obama appeared flustered by the activity, as one student snuck up from behind and squirted mustard on her hair and sweater.  Some allege that Ms. Obama overreacted by swinging her left arm at the boy.  Although the boy – who has yet to be identified – was unharmed, school administrators who have requested anonymity say that she crossed a line.  Also, rumors circulated on the school’s Facebook page that Secret Service agents were verbally and physically abusive with two students whom they escorted out of the cafeteria and behind a garbage dumpster.

“It is never OK to strike a child,” said one school official.  “There are ways to reprimand a child for disrespectful behavior without resorting to violence,” she added.

Civil rights attorney C. Blair Watkins said that unless Ms. Obama’s safety was in danger, physical violence should not have been used.  “You don’t hit kids unless they have a weapon,” said Watkins.  He added that while lunch trays being thrown is “concerning,” none reportedly were thrown at the first lady.

The White House denied rumors of harsh treatment towards students by the Secret Service or any other individuals accompanying the first lady.  Ms. Obama has yet to comment on the incident.

Food nutritionist Monica Hynes-Gibson, CDN, said that poor nutrition could have contributed to the incident.  “The aggressive behavior of these kids could be the result of poor nutrition,” she said.  “If kids do not have the vitamins and minerals they need, their behavior suffers.”  Hynes-Gibson is a spokesperson for Ms. Obama’s healthy lunch initiative.

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