Toddler Suspended from Daycare Over a Cheese Sandwich

When a two-year-old girl is suspended from daycare, what does that teach her about discipline? It might seem like a story from The Onion, but two-year-old Ottawa girl Faith was issued a three-day suspension from her daycare after she brought a cheese sandwich into her classroom. According to the daycare’s policy of no outside food, bringing food from home is an automatic three-day suspension if the food contains no nuts or peanuts. If the food contains nuts or peanuts, the consequence is immediate termination from the center.

I can understand the daycare’s viewpoint about outside food. Food allergies can be life threatening. As someone who has worked as a summer camp director, I taught my staff and our campers the importance of not sharing food with each other. We closely monitored lunch breaks to ensure food sharing didn’t occur. The staff received first aid and CPR training which included learning how to use an Epi-Pen in case of an allergic reaction.

My son’s preschool has a no nuts policy, and we’re very conscious of it. It eliminates our go-to lunch of peanut butter and honey sandwiches for my four-year-old, but I don’t mind our limited lunchbox options. Still, mistakes happen. One day we dropped him off with a Nutella sandwich in his lunchbox. Immediately after we realised our mistake, we called the preschool and they threw away his hazelnut spread sandwich and provided him with a different lunch. Crisis averted.

Unfortunately, Faith’s father didn’t notice that she walked into her daycare with a Ziploc bag with a cheese sandwich inside, which she had in the car, presumably eating it during their morning commute. Faith’s daycare teacher spotted the sandwich and Faith was slapped with a three-day suspension. Faith’s four-year-old brother, however, was allowed to remain at school.

When I explained food allergies to my daughter at the age of two, she didn’t quite grasp how serious they could be for her friends. I’m not even sure she understood what dying meant. What will Faith have learned from her suspension? That she’s not allowed to make any mistakes and won’t be given a warning or a second chance? At this age, child suspensions are more a punish for parents than the toddler.

Shouldn’t we save this last resort punishment for bullying or children who pull out knives at school? Instead schools suspend preschoolers for “kicking off his shoes and crying in frustration,” according to this 2012 Washington Post report about elementary school suspensions in the Washington, DC metro area. If schools are looking to punish parents for their children’s mistakes, surely there are more effective ways than punishing the young ones directly.

I’m not an expert on child development, but there must be more age appropriate ways to help Faith understand the seriousness of food allergies.

Do you think the daycare should have issued Faith a three-day suspension for bringing a cheese sandwich into the center?