Monday, December 17, 2012

How your PTA can support SANDY HOOK Elementary School

Support Sandy Hook PTA & Share School Safety Resources

On Friday, December 14, Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, experienced a violent shooting that resulted in nearly 30 deaths. National PTA® President Betsy Landers issued a statement that same day to express her sympathy for the students, families and communities affected by the horrendous tragedy. School and child safety is one of PTA’s core tenets as it is crucial to effective learning. National PTA® believes the protection of children in all school settings is a fundamental right and has made this the utmost priority for our work and advocacy.

National PTA Statement on the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting

If your PTA is interested in providing support to the students and teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary School, please consider one of these suggested options.

Ways to Help Sandy Hook with National PTA

1) Welcome Students to a Winter Wonderland

When school resumes for Sandy Hook, it will be in a new building. Parent-volunteers are working to ensure that the students are welcomed back by a winter wonderland with the entire school decorated with as many unique snowflakes as possible. We encourage senders to be as creative as possible, remembering that no two snowflakes are alike. Please make and send snowflakes by January 12, 2013 to the Connecticut PTSA address at the bottom of this page.  

2) Donating and Organizing Fundraisers for Sandy Hook Elementary School

Donations will be accepted indefinitely to the Connecticut PTSA “Sandy Hook Fund” to provide ongoing support to the community. Please send checks to the Connecticut PTSA address listed at the bottom of this page. Group fundraising projects may include walk-a-thons, spirits days, pajama days, etc., which may be scheduled at your convenience.

For student-run coin drives, please submit all donations by February 14, 2013.

The Newtown community has requested only monetary donations at this time. For service or product donation inquiries, please contact To contact Sandy Hook PTA, please email

Please send all snowflakes and donations to:  
Connecticut PTSA
60 Connolly Parkway
Building 12, Suite 103
Hamden, CT 06514

Resources on School Violence

Connecticut PTSA Website

Please keep in mind that while National PTA Bylaws do not allow local units to donate funds to other organizations, regardless of how worthy the cause, it is acceptable for your PTA to donate funds to another PTA.  This is the only exception.  

Let's show the Sandy Hook community that Chesterfield County PTAs/PTSAs care about them by showing our support.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Addressing the Safety of our Students

With the recent tragic events that took place at an elementary school in Connecticut on Friday, I am hearing parents in Chesterfield asking questions such as "is my child safe?" and "what if something horrific like this happened at our school?".  The truth is that a tragedy such as this could happen anywhere in America.  As parents we always have the safety and security of our children in mind, but when something of this magnitude happens, we tend to have a heightened awareness and take additional precautions to ensure the safety of our children.

One of the most important things we can do as parents, to help protect our children, is to be informed.  It is imperative that we understand that our schools do have Emergency Management Plans in place, but more importantly, that we understand what that actually means for our students and what role we play as parents.  The questions that we should be asking of ourselves are:

1) Do I know how to find out about my child in the event of an emergency?  How will my school communicate with me and do I know how to access those resources?
2) Do I know if I should go to the school or is it more effective to allow those trained to handle the situation?  What does the school expect me to do and am I prepared?  Do I have a backup plan?
3) Is my contact information up-to-date so that my school can get in contact with me in the case of an emergency?  Are my emergency contacts aware that they are on the list and how to respond?
4) Have I talked with my child and asked them what they have learned in school about what to do in case of an emergency situation?  Do they have questions that I can help answer or concerns that I can help alleviate?  
5) Who is my school's Child Safety Officer or School Resource Officer?  How do they help my student and what can I do as a parent to help them help my student?
6) If I have specific questions or concerns, do I know who I should go to?  Have I reached out to them?

In a school safety update sent to parents of Chesterfield County Public School students, our Superintendent outlined some of the general information about the school division's crisis prevention and management efforts.  Hopefully, you have already taken the time to review the general information and have contacted your school Administrator (Principal) or the school division's Community Relations Department if you have further questions.  Below you will find the outlined specifics and you can view the entire news release here.         

Emergency Management Plans

• The school division has a critical incident plan, which includes prevention and response efforts.  This document is reviewed and revised annually. Each school has its own critical incident team and customized response and prevention procedures. Included are evacuation plans in the event of an emergency. Critical incident teams from each school participate in planning meetings, trainings and drills throughout the year.  

Individual School Prevention Efforts

• Individual school prevention efforts include but are not limited to ID badges for visitors, stopping visitors
without badges in hallways and monitoring access to entrance points. With the help of PTAs and volunteers,
schools have worked to increase monitoring front entrances.
• All schools have a visitor management system, a technology‐based system that helps us monitor who is in school facilities. Each visitor must provide a driver’s license, which is scanned into the computer system for security checks. Each visitor is checked against the Virginia State Police Sex Offender Registry. Visitors are then provided a visitor sticker that includes photo identification.
• Secondary schools are equipped with interior and exterior video cameras that allow us to monitor activity in and out of the building.
• Elementary school entrances are locked and equipped with a doorbell‐entrance system. Each visitor must ring the bell and be buzzed in by a front office worker, who is able to see the visitor through a camera. Upon entry, front office staff members are able to monitor the front entrance by video and guide the visitor to the office.

• Schools also have procedures for securing onsite trailers. They include but are not limited to locking doors when students are in the trailers, locking doors when the trailer is empty, using the buddy system when a student needs to leave the trailer, taking the entire class on a bathroom break if needed, and providing trailers with two‐way radios so there is contact with the main building.   

School Security Personnel

• Chesterfield County School Resource Officers are assigned to the high and middle schools.  
• The school division’s security office takes the lead in performing safety and security checks to help implement policies and best practices.
• Multiple schools also have security monitors who work to provide a safe learning environment.  


In the event of an emergency, the school division will share information and directions with parents
• on its web site (;  
• via Blackboard Connect, a parent notification system that provides the ability to record and send messages via web and telephone;  
• on social media outlets via Facebook ( and Twitter (;  
• on the school division’s public access channels – Verizon cable Channel 27 and Comcast cable Channel 96; and  
• through local media outlets as permitted.

Please make a point to talk with your children about this and other important safety issues. Ensure that you are informed and prepared.  There is never a better time than now.  My prayers go out to the Sandy Hook Elementary School community.  I am hopeful that this simple little blog can help just one parent ensure that they have done all they can to be prepared for their student.  As always, feel free to contact me if you or your PTA need support.

Maria Cox- Chesterfield County Council of PTAs/PTSAs  Health & Safety Committee Chair

Monday, November 19, 2012

Does Your PTA Promote Competitive Foods?

Did you know that snack foods, including beverages, available outside of the school meals program are referred to as “competitive foods.” This is because these unregulated items “compete” with the federal school meals program that meets nutritional standards and dietary guidelines.  

Students often consume up to 50% of their daily calories at school.*1  Nationally, 83% of elementary schools, 97% of middle/junior high schools, and 99% of high schools sell food and beverages outside of the school meals program through vending machines, school stores, or a la carte in the cafeteria.*2  In addition, on-campus or PTA sponsored fundraisers are a source of competitive foods. Nationally, forty percent of schools allow for the sale of foods such as chocolate bars and other candy for fundraising.*3  

National PTA encourages local unit PTAs to consider nutritional guidelines for beverages and
snack foods provided to students through PTA sponsored events and through PTA sponsored fundraisers.  Research has shown that students who eat a healthy diet perform better at school. PTAs can have a significant, positive impact on student learning by advocating for healthier food options during the school day and taking good nutrition into account when planning PTA events.

To celebrate November as PTA Healthy Lifestyles Month, Chesterfield County Council of PTAs/PTSAs Health & Safety Committee challenges you to implement the use of the "Acceptable Foods List" within your local unit.  The Acceptable Foods List and instructions on how to implement the guidelines was also shared at the November County Council General Membership Meeting.  PTA Presidents are encouraged to share this information with their Boards and implement the program this month.  These Guidelines can help ensure the following regarding the foods that students consume through PTA sponsored classroom celebrations:

  1. Snacks are more nutrient dense and that the portion sizes of treats and beverages are age-appropriate;
  2. That we are considering the important affects that unhealthy snacks play in the role of childhood obesity;
  3. Food sensitivities and severe food allergies are being taken into consideration;
  4. Food borne illnesses can be minimized or prevented by taking extra precautions.


"Winterpock Elementary School PTA participated in a pilot study by being the first school to implement the Acceptable Foods List within their Room Parent Program.  The PTA's Health & Safety Committee introduced the program to Principal, Gloria Cooper back in early 2012.  The School Administrator was thrilled to see the PTA so involved in supporting the healthy initiatives that Winterpock and other schools within the County were implementing.  Knowing that there would be changes in School Board Policies pertaining to foods being brought into schools during the upcoming school year and with new USDA guidelines for healthier school lunches being put in place, it just seemed a natural fit to ensure that the PTA was doing everything we could to support them.

Winterpock PTA Health & Safety Committee introduced the idea of the initiative to its Board and PTA Teacher Representatives at the June meeting.  There was an overwhelmingly positive response to put the program in place during the 2012-2013 school year.  We then worked over the summer to research which foods should be included in the list and what factors should be taken into consideration.  We didn't want to just address food allergies but rather wanted to ensure that we were doing due diligence to support all of our students.  The program was implemented the beginning of September 2012 which is when we shared the information and Acceptable Foods List with school staff, room parents, Board Members and the PTA General Membership.  

Overall the initiative has been very well received.  Surprisingly, there are a few parents who still want their child to receive a doughnut or other non-nutritional snacks during classroom celebrations, but the grand majority of our parents are pleased with the changes.  As we gear up for the Holidays, we are now prepared to ensure that we are providing more proportional, healthier snacks to our students.  There are still cookies and cupcakes on the list but they are mini portions.  We hope to provide a healthier snack like fresh veggies or fruit in tandem with the small treat instead of providing an abundance of sugary snacks for our classroom celebrations.  The students don't feel deprived and parents can rest assured that we have their child's best interests and wellness in mind. Now that the research is done, the list is complete and we have a proven study of how to successfully implement the initiative, it is time to get all of our other Chesterfield PTAs/PTSAs involved."  --Maria Cox, Winterpock PTA Health & Safety Chair  

*1  Neumark-Sztainer, D., French, S., Hanna, P., Story, M., & Fulkerson, J. (2005) School Lunch and Snacking Patterns among High School Students: Associations with School Food Environment and Policies. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. (2). Web site:>  
*2 Center for Science in the Public Interest. (2006) School Foods Report Card.
*3  U.S. General Accountability Office (2005)..School meals program: Competitive foods are widely available and generate substantial revenues for schools (U.S. GAO No. GAO-05-563).

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Underage Drinking Prevention

Alcohol is the most commonly used drug by youth—more than all illegal drugs combined.  That's why Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) wants to provide the tools to help teens take a stand against underage alcohol use and to equip parents to have potentially lifesaving conversations about alcohol with their kids.

There are several ways teens can use their power to take a stand:
  • Read MADD’s teen booklet and share it with friends.
  • Visit to enter to win NFL prizes through MADD Props™ by taking a pledge not to drink underage or ride with someone who has been drinking.
  • Enter MADD’s video contest to demonstrate your power to stop underage drinking and for a chance to win the latest iPad by December 28, 2012.
Parents often concern themselves with teaching their teens to not drink and drive rather than talking with them about the dangers of drinking underage. What parents may not know is that research shows the earlier kids start to drink, the greater the likelihood they will become alcohol dependent, drive drunk, and experience other negative consequences that are parents’ worst nightmares. 

Research also shows that parents are the leading influence on kids’ decisions of whether or not to drink alcohol.  MADD is empowering parents to use their influence to talk with teens about alcohol through the Power of Parents® program and the parenthandbook that equip parents with the research-based information to have these potentially life-saving conversations. Use this influence not only at home with teens, but share this valuable resource with other parents.

Please contact Cristi Cousins at MADD VA (804-353-7121 or to learn more about MADD’s programs for engaging youth, parents and the community to prevent underage drinking.

Underage Drinking Prevention. Mothers Against Drunk Driving. 13 November 2012. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Get SAVVY about Substance Abuse Prevention

Get sAvvy about preventing abuse of these substances!

Hear about prevention strategies and recent trends in youth substance abuse Share your knowledge    Connect with others in your area Review available programs and resources
NOVEMBER 14, 2012
NOVEMBER 29, 2012
6-8 p.m.
James River High School
3700 James River Road
Midlothian, VA 23113

10 am- 12 pm
Virginia Dept. of Forensic Science Northern Laboratory 10850 Pyramid Place Manassas, VA 20110

You play an important role educating and safeguarding youth and adults. On behalf of the Office of Governor Bob McDonnell, we invite you to attend a SAVVY Expo and join us as a SAVVY partner.
The expos will feature speakers and exhibitors sharing the most current information about substance abuse and prevention, spotlighting: bath salts, synthetic cannabinoids, prescription drug abuse, alcohol, inhalants and other commonly-abused substances. 
Test your SAVVY IQ, pick up dozens of ideas for working with teens, network with representatives of: PTAs, schools, health professions, law enforcement, first responders, community coalitions, elected officials, government agencies, youth advocates, community service boards and others. Refreshments, prizes and take-aways too! 
Please visit SAVVY VA on Facebook for updates about the program and exhibitors. Pre-registration is not necessary.
Please visit the website to read about Governor McDonnell's Announcement on the Initiative to Promote Substance Abuse Awareness and Prevention for Virginia's Youth.

Questions? Please call or email ABC Education Coordinator Jennifer Farinholt at 804-213-4452 or Also check the SAVVY VA Facebook page for frequent updates!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Volunteer Safety Training

Attention PTA Volunteers, Room Parents, Classroom Volunteers and PTA Members: You are invited to participate in a FREE Volunteer Safety Training class on Saturday, November 10th organized by the Chesterfield County Council of PTAs. Training will include Adult and Child CPR, First Aid, AED and use of Epi-pens. Volunteers who work with students either during school hours, at after school events or at PTA sponsored events are highly encouraged to attend. Registration is required and is open until maximum capacity is reached or Nov. 8th, which ever comes first. Click the link for more information and to register for training.

This training will be especially beneficial for PTA Members who are active volunteers during Enrichment programs sponsored by their local unit PTA.  Several of our local unit PTAs/PTSAs offer organized Enrichment events and programs at their school after regular school hours.  There is a common misconception among parents that because PTAs are holding the program at their school that the CCPS rules that apply to school employees also pertain to the PTA.  This is incorrect.  

When a PTA or PTSA uses a school facility to run an event they are required to fill out a Facility Request Form and are renting the facility.  PTA volunteers do not have access to medications stored for students in the school clinic.  Volunteers also do not have access to student medical files or emergency contact information.  In most cases, depending on the day and time of the PTA event, your school clinic will be closed and office personnel may not be available.  In those cases, as Volunteers supervising students, the responsibility of the health and welfare of those students falls to the PTA.  

Current legislation does NOT require PTA Volunteers to attend CPR or First Aid Training.  There are many other non-profit organizations working with youth that DO require their volunteers to participate in safety training and most require volunteers to actively keep their skills up-to-date.  Some even require volunteers to have CPR or First Aid certifications and attend annual or biennial refresher courses.  

PTAs/PTSAs should take safety precautions into consideration when sponsoring events such as Carnivals, Dances, running or exercise clubs, organized races and other programs with an increased risk of physical activity injuries or emergencies.  Always have a First Aid Kit available, ensure that you have a means for contacting Emergency Services if needed and when registering students for activities, request emergency contact information, special medical requirements and allergy information.  Keep this information readily available during the duration of your event.  Ensure that your local unit has PTA insurance and periodically review your insurance policy to make certain that it covers medical situations or injuries.  

Attending Volunteer Safety Training and taking these necessary precautions are just a few things that PTAs/PTSAs can do to ensure the safety of our students.               

Monday, October 1, 2012

How Your Health & Safety Committee Can Help

You may be wondering what the purpose of a Health & Safety Committee is.  The Committee’s goals are to reduce risky behaviors and increase good health among all of Virginia’s children by promoting concepts of safety prevention and health wellness among PTAs, and effect laws and regulations to insure the health and safety of Virginia’s children and communities. 
The scope of the committee’s work includes, but is not limited to issues dealing with childhood obesity, physical activity, healthy lifestyles, food allergies, environmental protection, violent games and videos, gang activity, juvenile crime and justice, truancy, risky relationships, homelessness, runaways, missing and exploited children, conflict resolution, childhood accident prevention, substance abuse, and teenage drivers as they pertain to your grade levels.  This is accomplished through training and resources provided through local units as well as County Council and State PTA. 
Here is an outline of how our State PTA works in collaboration with Chesterfield County Council and Local Unit PTAs on educating and providing programs for their communities:

State Committee Focus

  • Encourage local units and councils to have functioning Health and Safety Committees, and to provide them with the information and resources needed to get started and to operate at their fullest potential
  • Provide training to local units on PTA sponsored programs dealing with current Health and Safety issues
  • Encourage councils, local units, and individuals to be involved in the PTA legislative process in the area of Health and Safety 
  • Seek funds (grants and/or business partnerships) for local unit school health projects
  • Represent Virginia PTA on coalitions and organizations regarding healthy and safety issues 
  • Speak for PTA at public hearings in regards to children and adolescent health and safety issues
  • Work in cooperation with other Virginia PTA committees on related health risks and safety issues 
  • Administer the Family Fitness Grant Program, when funds are available.

County Council Committee Focus

  • Encourage local units to have functioning Health and Safety Committees, and to provide them with the information and resources needed to get started and to operate at their fullest potential
  • Keeps membership aware of current issues regarding the health of children
  • Informs membership of any changes or additions to the immunization of children
  • Provides program ideas and information addressing health and safety issues among youth
  • Encourages physical fitness and healthy eating among student and school staff members
  • Encourages parents to make their voices heard on concerns regarding school safety and the implementation of safe school plans within all public schools
  • Utilize the legislation program to remain up to date with current health and safety issues,  communicate changes and work with the community to promote change through the PTA’s legislative process
  • Become focused on health issues such as Childhood Obesity, Physical Fitness, Environment, Clean Air, Immunization, Vision Screenings, Tobacco, Second Hand Smoke, Alcohol and School Nursing
  • Become focused on safety issues such as Violence, Violent Videos, Gangs, truancy, risky relationships, homelessness, runaways, missing, bus safety, childhood accident prevention, substance abuse, and teenage drivers. 

Local Unit Focus

  • Establish a Health and Safety Committee that will provide programs that meet the needs of their community
  • The committee should encourage membership from parents, local business persons, and school administration, teachers, clergy, and health care professionals. The committee should submit a written evaluation of their program
  • Perform a survey of community to assess the type of programs and initiatives that will best serve its constituency, provides communication, information, and programs for its community
  • Utilize the legislation program to remain up to date with current health and safety issues by working with the community and/or individuals to promote change through the PTA’s legislative process
  • Become focused on health issues such as Childhood Obesity, Physical Fitness, Environment, Clean Air, Immunization, Vision Screenings, Tobacco, Second Hand Smoke, Alcohol, and School Nursing.
  • Become focused on safety issues such as Violence, Violent Videos, Gangs, truancy, risky relationships, homelessness, runaways, missing, bus safety, childhood accident prevention, substance abuse, and teenage drivers.
If you do not currently have a Health & Safety Committee within your local PTA unit and would like to learn how to get started, please contact Maria Cox, Chesterfield County Council of PTAs/PTSAs Health & Safety Committee Chair at or contact your Virginia State PTA Health & Safety Committee Chair, Michelle Prescott at  

Saturday, September 29, 2012

November is Healthy Lifestyles Month

To promote childhood health and wellness, National PTA created Healthy Lifestyles Month. Throughout the month of November, PTAs nationwide participate in PTA Healthy Lifestyles Month by conducting programs and events that promote health education, physical activity and parental involvement. Knowing that a healthy child can achieve and learn more, PTAs are encouraging families to increase their physical activity, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, develop community oriented physical activity programs and promote healthy lifelong behaviors. National PTA’s Healthy Lifestyles Month has encouraged PTA to get creative and develop clever initiatives that make living healthy fun.

The National PTA’s Healthy Lifestyles Program focuses on the connections between healthy 
lifestyles and student achievement.  The mission of the National PTA’s Healthy Lifestyle program is to aid parents and other community organizations with the tools and resources they need in order to develop and promote healthier schools and foster healthy parental engagement.  

1. Increase the connection between healthy lifestyles and student achievement  
2. To reduce the risk and prevalence of  childhood obesity 
3. Encourage physical activity and healthy eating among school age children (grades K-12) 
4. Provide resources and guidance in the areas of obesity control management  

All local PTAs are encouraged to plan events and activities to promote the health and wellness of their communities. It can be something as small as featuring an article in their newsletter or as big as organizing a 5K walk. To support local units’ efforts, the PTA national office is offering a limited number of PTA Healthy Lifestyles Grants of up to $1,000.   

Visit the National PTA Health & Wellness page for more details.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Epi-pen Legislation and How it Affects our Students

On April 26, 2012 Governor Bob McDonnell signed House Bill 1107 (Greason) and Senate Bill 656 (McEachin), which require local school boards to adopt and implement policies for the possession and administration of epinephrine in Virginia's public schools.  Speaking about the legislation, Governor McDonnell said, "Virginia must do everything it can to ensure the safety of our young people while they are in school."

The biennial budget included $200,000 to support the purchase of epinephrine injectors for public schools in Virginia during the 2012-2013 school year. State-level guidelines were developed on July 1, 2012 and school boards have adopted and implemented the new policies for this school year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported an 18% increase in food allergy among school-aged children from 1997 to 2007. According to a clinical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 16% to 18% of children with a food allergy have experienced a reaction in school and approximately 25% of allergic reactions or treatments for anaphylaxis occur in children whose allergy was previously undiagnosed.

CCPS revised current policies to become compliant with the new legislation to provide at least two doses of auto-injectable epinephrine (non-student specific or stock epinephrine) in each school.  A few important things to note with the adoption of these policies are as follows:

  1. Non-student specific epinephrine is not intended to replace student-specific orders or parent-provided individual medications.  Parents of students with known allergies are still required to complete the appropriate paperwork and provide prescribed medication for their student.
  2. This medication is to be administered by a school nurse or employee of the School Board who is authorized and trained in the administration of epinephrine to any student believed to be having an anaphylactic reaction on school premises, during the academic day.
  3. This policy does not extend to activities off school grounds (including transportation to and from school, field trips, etc.) or outside of the academic day (sporting events, extra-curricular activities, etc.).  This policy also does not extend to activities held at a school facility that are held before or after school and sponsored by an outside organization, such as a PTA.
  4. Building level administration shall be responsible for identifying at least two employees, in addition to the school nurse (RN or LPN), to be trained in the administration of epinephrine by auto-injector. Only trained personnel should administer epinephrine to a student believed to be having an anaphylactic reaction.
Although the Parent Teacher Association works very closely with schools and students in educational settings, it is critical that parents are aware that these policies do not apply to the PTA.  Although parent volunteers associated with a PTA may supervise CCPS students during before and after school events or enrichment programs sponsored by the PTA, we are in fact a separate entity.  Some critical points of discussion within your local unit should include the following:

  • PTAs/PTSAs do not have access to student files or information including those regarding medication or student health issues.  When registering students for PTA sponsored programs, you may wish to ask if the student has any specific medical needs or allergies.
  • The PTA does not have a nurse or authorized person who may access and administer medications.  PTA volunteers are not employees and are not required to participate in any training including CPR, First Aid or medication administration.  While volunteers are encouraged to participate in any available training, the National PTA does not currently support a resolution requiring volunteers to seek training.
  • PTAs/PTSAs do not have access to medications kept on school property such as the clinic. This includes both prescription medications and non-student specific epinephrine.  While your local unit may be sponsoring the program or event using your school facility, the organization is simply renting the facility outside of the academic day, just as any other organization would.  
  • Although the school clinic or school office may still be operating during the hours of your before or after school event/program, employees who are trained in the administration of epinephrine may not still be on school property.  For example, the school nurse may leave right after the final bell rings dismissing students, however, your program may take place after school.
Suggestions to enhance overall student wellness during your PTA sponsored event may include:
  1. Ensure that parents of students participating are aware that your PTA does not have access to student files, information pertaining to student health issues, medications kept in the clinic, etc.
  2. Gather information regarding student specific medical needs or allergies when registering students and keep this readily available during your program.
  3. Purchase at least 1 first aid kit including gloves and keep it in an area accessible to your parent volunteers.
  4. Require outside vendors or businesses participating in your program or event to sign a general liability statement.
  5. Ask parents to sign a waiver explaining their rights and responsibilities.  Be transparent.  Make sure they understand what your PTA is capable of handling in the case of an emergency or medical need.
  6. Talk to and partner with your school Administration and encourage parents to also speak with their school if they have questions pertaining to student wellness.
  7. Provide resources and literature to your membership and reinforce the importance of parental involvement in student wellness in schools.
  8. Start a Health & Safety Committee within your local unit.  
  9. Take into consideration certain health needs or allergies that students may present with when planning activities, events and programs. 
  10. Attend training opportunities or encourage members of your PTA Board to attend if they work directly with students.
  For more information regarding legislation specific to epinephrine in schools, please visit Virginia's Legislative System.  To review the Chesterfield County Public School's policies (4130, 4131, 4133, 4134) as mentioned above, please visit Board Docs.  

To snack or not to snack? IS that the question?

Chesterfield schools encourage healthy snacks and limit celebrations that involve food during the school day. Not only is our school district working to promote student wellness and preventing and reducing childhood obesity but many students have food sensitivities that can lead to life-threatening reactions. At home, parents can manage the foods their children are exposed to.  Managing exposure at school is more of a challenge, so schools take reasonable steps to meet that challenge by asking all parents to follow four simple guidelines:

1) If you bring food to your child at school, do not bring food for anyone else’s child and do not share your food with any other child.
2) If you wish to send treats for other students, for a birthday or any other celebration, send non-food treats such as pencils, bookmarks, etc.
3) Unless specifically asked to do so, do not send any food to school for consumption by other students.
4) Talk to your children about the problems associated with sharing food at school and discourage them from doing so.

These new guidelines have been adopted by throughout the County and in order to help support this initiative, Chesterfield County Council of  PTAs/PTSAs is working to create additional guidelines that include a list of Acceptable Foods/Beverages approved for use with the classroom celebrations that are organized or sponsored through the PTA.  The goal is to encourage healthier eating throughout the entire school day and to ensure that students aren't receiving high fat, high sugar or empty calorie snacks outside of the lunch room.  

Many of our local unit PTAs, especially in the Elementary Schools, recruit Room Parent volunteers who are responsible for planning and supervising the various classroom celebrations.  The idea involving the new guidelines would encourage Room Parents to then work with their teachers and class parents to ensure that the acceptable foods list is followed when planning in-class celebrations/activities sponsored by the PTA.  These guidelines would help support the healthy eating initiative and also ensure that food sensitivities are being taken into consideration.  

If you poll your parent population, you will most likely find that the majority of them would support these initiatives and would be delighted to see the days of the never ending cupcakes and cookies go away (or at least be reduced).  The idea isn't to take away all of the sugary treats that our students look forward to, but to limit what they are exposed to.  I recently heard someone say "no one wants to be the cupcake police" and while that is true, there is a way to compromise and find a healthy balance that both students and parents will appreciate and look forward to.   

For a recommended food list or other ideas about how you can help your local unit support student wellness through PTA sponsored events, contact me at  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Healthier School Lunches

Welcome Back-To-School and to a new year with your County Council of PTAs.  As you may have noticed, school lunches have a whole new look this year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) updated nutrition standards for school meals. Changes to school lunches went into affect beginning with the 2012-2013 school year.  As parents, it can be difficult to navigate what these changes mean and how you can support your kids and your school in making healthy choices.  You have probably heard the facts before: Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in the United States have tripled. Today, more than 23 million children and teens are overweight or obese, which places them at an increased risk for serious diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke. Ensuring that school meals are healthy and in line with current nutrition science is important for kids’ health as well as for academics.

PTA has been closely involved with federal health policy since its inception.  Most recently, PTA members successfully advocated for the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that passed Congress and was signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 13, 2010. A major provision of the bill is what has prompted the changes we are seeing in school lunches this year.  The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 directed USDA to update the NSLP’s meal pattern and nutrition standards based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 

The new meal pattern increases the availability of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in the school menu as well as a shift to low-fat or nonfat milk and limits on sodium and unhealthy fats. New dietary specifications also set specific calorie limits to ensure age-appropriate meals for grades K-5, 6-8, and 9-12. While school lunches must meet Federal meal requirements, decisions about what specific foods to serve and how they are prepared are made by local school food authorities.

So you are probably wondering what the changes are and how this has affected one of your students' favorite times of day; lunch time.  Here is a comprehensive and easy to understand comparison of what lunch requirements were prior to this year:  

We have received positive feedback regarding the new meal standards and students across the County seem to be adapting to them well.  The nutritional integrity of school meals has always been a priority to CCPS and the school system is meeting and exceeding the challenges set forth in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. 

If you have questions about the new standards or any other matters pertaining to school nutrition, please contact the CCPS School Nutritionist office at (804) 743-3728.  Additional information can also be found on the CCPS website by visiting the Food and Nutrition Services page.

Have a safe and healthy school year!