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School to dad: You can't join son for lunch each day

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
February 02, 2001

PITTSBURGH - Dan Grove works the 3 p.m.-to-midnight shift as a school custodian. It limits the time he can spend with his 10-year-old son, John.

So in these days of two working parents and activity-laden children, Grove thought he had found a way to spend time with his only child.

Grove, who lives in Ohioville, Pa., spends about an hour with his son each morning, getting him off to school while his wife, Cindy, starts the daylight shift at a nursing home.

And he joins his son, a third-grader, for lunch at his elementary school.

He and his son have been eating lunch together in the cafeteria for the past four years, since John was in kindergarten.

"It was no problem," said Grove.

Educators have been encouraging such parental involvement in their child's school. But, apparently, lunch every day is too much.

A new policy went into effect in September that allows a parent to come to one breakfast and one lunch a week at school, said Enrico Antonini, superintendent of Western Beaver County School District.

The school requested that Grove cut down on the number of weekday visits, but after several discussions between parent and administrators, neither side was budging.

So, on Jan. 24, Grove received a registered letter informing him that he would be charged with trespassing if he further violates the policy.

"We believe that the policy is not rigid," said Antonini about the new rule, which was developed by a committee of parents, teachers, administrators and specialists, including the school psychologist.

He said the policy was also put into effect because of safety issues.

"We're not trying to close the door. We encourage parents to come in and volunteer, to help with parties and to be involved with the PTO. But every day is too much," said the superintendent. "We believe that children have to learn to be independent. It's important that they have social interaction for their development.

"The letter had to be sent as a last resort," said Antonini, who added that school administrators have been talking with Groves for the past two years.

There is no deadline in the letter for Grove to reduce his lunch visits.

"We purposely did not put a date in the letter because we wanted to give him time," Antonini said.

Grove said he had asked administrators for three months to get his son used to the fewer visits. He said he was complying with the terms of the letter. He said he went to lunch only once this week.

"Our primary interest is in what's best for the child," the superintendent said.