Rhode Island Elementary School Bans Talking at Lunch After 3 Choking Incidents

Class, from now on there will be no talking at lunch.

A Roman Catholic elementary school adopted new lunchroom rules this week requiring students to remain silent while eating. The move comes after three recent choking incidents in the cafeteria.

No one was hurt, but the principal of St. Rose of Lima School explained in a letter to parents that if the lunchroom is loud, staff members cannot hear a child choking.

Christine Lamoureux, whose 12-year-old is a sixth-grader at the school, said she respects the safety issue but thinks the rule is a bad idea.

"They are silent all day," she said. "They have to get some type of release." She suggested quiet conversation be allowed during lunch.

Another mother, Thina Paone, does not mind the silent lunches, noting that the cafeteria "can be very crazy" at the suburban school south of Providence.

Principal Jeannine Fuller did not immediately return a call seeking comment, but a spokesman for the Diocese of Providence described the silence rule as a temporary safety measure.

Spokesman Michael Guilfoyle said the school does not expect complete silence but enough quiet to keep students safe.

Lori Healey, a teacher at the school who also has a son in third grade, said "silent lunch" means students can whisper.

"They know it's not for punishment," she said. "It's for safety, and they'll be the first ones to tell you."

Stacey Wildenhain, a teacher's assistant at St. Rose, said her 7-year-old son does not mind the policy. He told her: "The sooner we eat, the sooner we can get out to play," she said.

Amanda Karhuse, of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said that students should not run wild during lunch, but that they also should not have to remain silent.

"It seems kind of ridiculous in our opinion," she said. "Kids need that social time, and they just need time to be kids at that age."

The principal's letter also spelled out other new lunch rules, including requiring students to stay in their seats and limiting them to one trip to the trash can. Any child who breaks the rules will serve detention the next day.

Paone's 6-year-old son, Joey, said he accepts the changes, but some of his classmates were having trouble obeying the rules.

Kara Casali, who also has a 6-year-old son at the school, said the rules against talking will be tough to enforce.

"I can't imagine having a silent lunch," she said.