Rationale for access to water at Middle School
August 16, 2007 10:26 AM   Subscribe

I have two 12 year old boys who just started a new middle school. They have access to water only at lunch time and two hurried, grab 3-4 sips at the water fountain twice a day. A doctor’s note will allow them to have a water bottle available, but I need help composing a permanent, rather than a temporary allowance for the water.

The school will allow them to keep a bottle of water in their backpack with a doctor’s note stating why they medically need access to the water and for how long this condition is supposed to last. The doctor’s note could say that they need access to the water due to the heat –it’s over 100 degrees, and the bus ride back and forth is not air-conditioned, but I would rather find a way to phrase the request so that they can have access to a bottle of water all year.

I understand the problems of a class full of students with water bottles, but it’s my job to advocate for my child, and when is the last time any adult spent 8 1/2 hours, including one hour on a hot bus, with only one water bottle? They can’t grab more than a few sips at the water fountain, because the whole class is lined up behind them, waiting to drink.

I’ve got a great relationship with my child’s pediatrician, and I’m certain that she would sign any reasonable letter for the school. But I’ll spend hours on the letter, and she’ll spend 3-4 minutes tops, unless I make an appointment with her and $35 and an hour in the waiting room, plus driving time. I googled medical conditions and water, hoping to find some mild condition that would require them to have access to water, but with little luck. They do both have seasonal allergies. Please help me create a very short note that my doctor will sign, that will give my two boys year round access to water!
posted by aliksd to Health & Fitness (66 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I can't help you with the letter, and to be honest, I can't imagine that your child's doctor would lie for you.

Have you brought this issue up to the school board? Have you talked to other parents about it? There are things that you can try to do about this that would benefit not only your kids, but the entire community.
posted by echo0720 at 10:34 AM on August 16, 2007

You are having difficulty finding a real medical reason for them to have water available. Think that through.
posted by smackfu at 10:34 AM on August 16, 2007 [12 favorites]

Don't middle schoolers have one hour classes in different parts of the school? They should easily be able to go to the bathroom or to the fountain in between classes. Maybe keep water bottles in their lockers so they can access them every time they need to get the books for the next class? I even had a daily gym class where we had constant access to a water fountain.

It seems like if you want to go the official route you could talk to the PTA or go to a school board meeting to bring up the issue. But maybe check first to see what the real conditions are. The conditions you stated don't sound realistic.
posted by JJ86 at 10:37 AM on August 16, 2007

As a kid, I spent many 90+ degree Maryland summer days riding the bus and sitting in poorly air-conditioned classrooms with only an occasional trip to the drinking fountain. 20 years later, I'm in perfect health. I honestly think you can relax here - unless they have medical conditions you're not mentioning, they'll be fine.

Or just give them water bottles and tell them to be discreet - a little practice breaking pointless rules will do them good ;)
posted by ryanshepard at 10:38 AM on August 16, 2007 [3 favorites]

I understand the problems of a class full of students with water bottles

What, exactly, are those? Forgive my outrage, but frankly I think that denying students water isn't a great way to accomplish much of anything, and I'm a teacher, for goodness' sake. I see no reason why this rule should exist, given that the risk of accidental spills and damage to property from a little water - which is the only reason I can think of that a school would issue a blanket ban on water bottles in class, rather than letting individual teachers set policies (ie, I can see why water bottles in, say, the locker room are OK, but not in the science labs or in computer or video production class) - is so low.

Furthermore, and more insidiously, does the school have vending machines that sell water or juice? Most high schools where I live do, and this seems like a way to get kids to buy more drinks.

It's a school, not a TSA airport checkpoint. I'd work with other parents to lobby the school board to change this rule.
posted by mdonley at 10:38 AM on August 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

An anecdote - I got really bad headaches in school, throughout junior high and early high school. Then I read some article that suggested dehydration could cause the headaches, and I made a point of drinking water between every single class, and boom! no more headaches. Never actually carried it around, I just stopped at every water fountain I saw. So... I encourage you to pursue this - drinking more water had a major effect on my quality of life at that age.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:48 AM on August 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

Why, exactly, do they need the water? If there's a valid reason, then get a note, but if there's not then why do you feel they need it?

Is this just a gut feeling? If so, then you might just ask your doctor to put "neurotic mother" on the note and see if the school accepts it.
posted by bshort at 10:50 AM on August 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

Have you tried talking to the principal about getting a more reasonable water bottle policy put in place?
posted by 0xFCAF at 10:52 AM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

a trend that is showing up more and more in high schools is that students are bringing vodka to school in water bottles. I am not sure if the OP's school has a policy in place to try and prevent things like this but I thought I would bring up one reason why a school may disallow water bottles.

This behavior is a rare occurrence in my school district. But I would imagine the reasoning behind a water bottle ban is along these lines some how.
posted by remthewanderer at 10:52 AM on August 16, 2007

I really have to question what school would make up this rule and also ban getting water through the day. When I was in school, you put your hand up and asked to get a drink. Sometimes yes, sometimes no -- just depends on what you are doing. I think you should probably just be a reasonable parent, and climb up the school board food chain.

Ask the teacher for access to to water. Teacher says no, tell them you will be asking the principal.
Principal says no, tell him your next call is to superintendent and school trustee.

Organize with other parents, start a phone campaign.
posted by maxpower at 10:52 AM on August 16, 2007

Don't lie (or ask the doctor to lie) to get what you want. If you really feel strongly about this issue, do as mdonley suggests and organize for a change in policy. (However, consider taking into account the recent attention to the environmental impacts of disposable water bottles, and perhaps organize for other solutions, like longer and more frequent water breaks, rather than ever student going through several bottles of water every day.)
posted by Forktine at 10:53 AM on August 16, 2007

Buy them backpacks that have built-in hydration bladders. They'll have water by their side all day as long as they can take their backpacks into class with them. I agree that you should rally the other parents on this though, it's a silly rule.
posted by bizwank at 10:55 AM on August 16, 2007

I'm a bit confused. At my middle school, we changed classes and were able to use the "hall pass" if we needed to use the restroom or get a drink of water. Are you sure they'll be lined up where they can't take more than 2 sips? The last time that happened for me was 3rd grade.

I never really felt to need to be constantly drinking in school though. In lunch and by raising my hand when needed I was fine. And when on the bus, they can drink out of a water bottle in their lunch/bookbag. The driver is too busy driving.
posted by ALongDecember at 10:55 AM on August 16, 2007

If they have seasonal allergies, don't they have more of an excuse to make more frequent trips to the restroom to blow their noses? I mean, I would often do that outside of the classroom since it's distracting during class, so I'd imagine they could do the same and get a drink on the way back.

Can we inquire what is prompting this question?
posted by mikeh at 10:59 AM on August 16, 2007

Just forge a doctor's note. Are they really going to call the doctor's office to confirm that he's allowing your kids to drink water?

That, or go to a school board meeting and whip up some righteous outrage. This is a better option, really, because the rule is completely absurd. If they won't budge on the matter, demand that they reimburse you (and anyone other parents who are requried to jump through this stupid hoop) for the cost of the doctor visit.
posted by mullingitover at 11:00 AM on August 16, 2007

I don't see why drinking water in class requires a ban, but hey! it's a rule. And I think any 12 year old who can't handle a day without drinking water constantly has a real problem. They're allowed water at lunch, they can get water from the drinking fountain between classes. They're 12; they'll survive. It may be a dumb rule, but it would appear that everyone else manages to survive. I did when I was in school for nine hours a day, with no air-conditioning and with no water fountains at all - just 300ml of warm milk at lunch, even when it was 38 degrees (100 for fahrenheit folks) outside.

Rather than teaching your children to lie and allowing them to believe that they are somehow inherently privilieged enough to "deserve" to break the rules when their personal luxury is at stake, why not teach them that bad rules need to be changed, or that if everyone else can live with it, so can they? And for the record, I spent NINE hours today in a hot and smelly room in Romania, with no water at all and closed windows. I survived to write this!

When I was 12, I stood up for my rights by myself plenty of times. My parents taught me that if I felt strongly about something I felt was injust, my duty was to either stand up for what was right or shut up and bear it. It was an important lesson, and one that helped me survive many things later. I wasn't treated like a baby, and I didn't behave like one when I faced sniper shots, a near-fatal coma from an explosion which killed my parents and several others, years of complications from internalized shrapnel, medical and dental treatment for malnutrition from several years of near-starvation, adapting to a new country and language (etc) - all when I was just a few years older than 12. Many of my friends did not fare as well as me, largely due to the fact, if I may be cynical enough to say so, that they were pampered their whole (often short) lives.

Your kids get as much water as they want every three or four hours. Between those times, they get at least some at the drinking fountain between classes. They're 12 - an age at which kids fare pretty well by themselves. They need to grow up and work this problem out for themselves. I'm sympathetic to life under dumb rules, but this is something they need to handle, not you. I'd be a little embarrassed to have even considered lying about this on their behalf, and very embarrassed to have asked how to lie about it publicly.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 11:03 AM on August 16, 2007 [15 favorites]

Oh, and if this school is as locked-down as you say, what abut access to the bathroom if they are drinking water all day? And I hope I'm not insulting, I remember many stupid rules in middle school.

On the topic of the note, which I hope is not necessary, what about telling the truth?

Please allow x to carry a water bottle in class to support healthy hydration. Thank you very much.
-Signed Somebody, M.D.

If they fight against a doctor then the school has issues and I think you'll get other parent's to support you.
posted by ALongDecember at 11:05 AM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

"Why, exactly, do they need water?" Um, your body is made up, on average, 60% water. Water helps flush out toxins, helping you stay healthy/get well quicker (the lymphatic system, which is involved in cleaning your cellular fluid, doesn't have something like the heart to pump the fluids forward through the system) Dehydration, as the person above mentioned, can cause headaches. Not drinking enough water falsely tells the body you're hungry, especially for sweets. Hmm, kids eating more snack food, now that's a good idea!

Pardon my semi cheekiness, but it just struck me as so absurd...
posted by healthyliving at 11:05 AM on August 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the responses. I’m not trying to find a lie or lie about a medical condition. I was not clear. I was googling for reputable material stating the recommended daily allowance of water. It has been 8 glasses a day, but I remember some controversy over that recommendation within the past month. I searched the American Academy of Pediatrics web site, but could not find anything helpful. I want to be able to write a note something like, “Anonymous child needs access to a water bottle during the school day because his chronic sinusitis (true) is exacerbated by dehydration.” I’m hoping that some of the people here can help me improve upon my example sentence. I would not ask my pediatrician to lie. Ideally, my note would say, “Anonymous child needs access to water in the amounts recommended by the AAP, or some other authority”.

My child is not talking in class because his throat is sore. This is interfering with his ability to focus on his schoolwork.

Yes, I will advocate for this rule change. That will be time-consuming but I will do it. In the meantime, I want to help my two children.
posted by aliksd at 11:07 AM on August 16, 2007

They cannot keep water bottles in their locker. I went to the school yesterday to ask about this. The lockers are on one wall and the teachers stand on the other wall and watch them. My children are also very, very bad at deception. I’ve spoken to 6 people at the school about this and other parents.
posted by aliksd at 11:09 AM on August 16, 2007

Step back. They're 12. It's time for them to handle some stuff. That's my first instinct here - you can't, and you shouldn't, try to fix everything for them all the time. A lot of school is learning how to cope with the horrible daily grind of life - unfortunate, but true. There are going to be obnoxious unfair rules and bitchy authority figures in everyone's life. Best to learn how to cope with it at 12 rather than trying to handle it for the first time at 23.

That said, though, are they really complaining about being thirsty all day or is it something else that's bothering them? I have no trouble imagining my son (remarkable paragon of a boy that he is, yeah, mmm hmm) exaggerating the horror of thirst somewhat to throw the blame when in actual fact he got caught horsing around at the water fountain and was thus banned for a while. Or something similar. Try asking one of their friends what the water policy really is, or ask if he's thirsty all day. Or ask one of their friends' moms.

If the teacher is evil (and it happens, oh yes it does) and you have ascertained that in actual fact, everyone in the classroom is dying of thirst, then you go to the teacher and to the principal and to the school board as everyone upthread has suggested, to fix it for the whole class and not just your own kids.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:11 AM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

What does your pediatrician say to all this?

Needing a drink of water does not equal needing to carry a water bottle. I agree that your kids should put up their hand and ask for a drink of water if they have sore throats (much as one might ask to be excused for lengthy nose-blowing).

Additionally, your boys are going to be teased unmercifully for having mom get the rules broken for them, and teased again when they have to pee every other class from all that water.
posted by desuetude at 11:24 AM on August 16, 2007

why not teach them that bad rules need to be changed and broken

I'd break this rule with ALongDecember's doctor's note for hydration, unless you're worried about the teacher being angry at them.

If they don't take that or your doctor is unreasonable, tell them they can sneak water bottles if they can deal with whatever the punishment is.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:26 AM on August 16, 2007

Oh yeah, but if they get a minor punishment like 30 minutes detention or writing out 20 times "I will not drink water" or whatever crap your school does, don't make a fuss about it, as that will just be counterproductive.

Additionally, that vodka thing is stupid. Kids do this, but ban water bottles and they'll mix it up with orange juice and have it a lunch. Maybe paying enough attention to notice when kids are wasted would work better.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:30 AM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

At that age, I would have told my mom that I wasn't talking in class because I had a sore throat, but what I would have meant was that I wasn't talking in class because I freaking hated middle school.
posted by crinklebat at 11:30 AM on August 16, 2007

Do your kids want the water bottles? Wouldn't the other 12 year old boys give them wedgies for carrying around water bottles? I seriously think you're overreacting on this one. Kids have survived for years without bottled water. I did. My friends did. My parents (obviously) did. You can get a surprising amount out of a drinking fountain if your thirsty and it's hot. (Also, be sure they do get tap water, or fluoridated bottled water, for their teeth!)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 11:33 AM on August 16, 2007

[a few comments removed. please try to keep answers more or less on topic or take them to metatalk.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:34 AM on August 16, 2007

Buy them backpacks that have built-in hydration bladders.

+1 Awesome answer.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:39 AM on August 16, 2007

I get why everyone thinks you're overreacting about this, but I completely understand why this is an issue -- i'm one of those people that has to have water nearby all the time or I start getting headaches and feeling crap. I don't think this is a small thing, this is a health issue and a school of all places should care about the health of its children. To answer your question, here are a few things I've found:

"In a pilot study, we examined the possible effects and feasibility of increased water intake in headache patients. ... The data of the present study suggest a reduction in the total number of hours and intensity of headache episodes after increased water intake."

The Beverage Institute for Health & Welness
(which could be a fancy name for a special-interest place, but looks reasonably okay) has a page on children.

Hydration said to help your heart
- this is backed up by my own cardiologist, who after diagnosing me with atrial flutter told me one of the best things I could do to keep my heart healthy was drink a ton of water.

From Water UK: "In schools, where water is provided throughout the day and where fizzy drinks are banned, there is much anecdotal evidence of improvements in concentration levels, academic performance and pupil behaviour." (has a citation)

The best thing to do is find a friend who works/goes to a university, and get access to an academic paper database and find a few studies to put to the PTA.
posted by ukdanae at 11:40 AM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Access to water is the most basic and simplest of human rights. You are not a neurotic mother. Your protection instinct is the same instinct that we should expect all parents and all child caretakers to follow. Water poses no threat. Schools that are so dysfunctional so as to not be able to prevent students bringing in vodka in waterbottles have much bigger problems to solve and are following a reactionary authoritarian cure the symptom approach. Fuck 'em.

If you need a medical reason: Kidney stones. The deal is that this applies to every child and every adult, so their deprivation of water is a serious school-wide health risk. Again: Fuck 'em and fuck anybody who thinks this is a rational policy.
posted by Skwirl at 11:59 AM on August 16, 2007 [6 favorites]

Um...if your child is truly not talking in class due to a chronic sore throat, it could be more than lack of water. Kids are can sometimes have vocal cord injuries that make it painful to talk.

Here's my suggestion: ask that your son be evaluated by the school speech therapist. If there is something wrong with his voice, she'll take care of it. If it's just dehydration, she'll know how to work the system to allow your son to get water. Either way you'll gain an advocate within the system to help you.

Also, fwiw, at the school I work at the kids do all kinds of things with bottles of water. Last year it was bringing vodka to school, and a few years ago they were somehow making bongs out of them. So some rules are there for a reason.
posted by christinetheslp at 12:04 PM on August 16, 2007

Could you just suggest to your child that if they feel thirsty during class that they ask to use the bathroom and on the way there hit up the water fountain?

Or just tell your child to go to the fountain in between classes (assuming that the school they are going to has class changes).

These seem like the easiest solutions to me.
posted by fallenposters at 12:11 PM on August 16, 2007

Well if you think that the children need water above and beyond what lunch and a couple water breaks a day can supply, then I think your example sentence is just fine.

Anonymous child needs access to a water bottle during the school day because his chronic sinusitis is exacerbated by dehydration.
Signed, A Doctor.

If that's true, then that sounds pretty reasonable to me. If you school needs to see some articles off PubMed then they seriously have major issues that warrant alerting the PTA and the local media.
posted by ALongDecember at 12:13 PM on August 16, 2007

Camelback. Here. For kids.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:15 PM on August 16, 2007

Medical Treatment of Sinusitis
Daniel G. Becker, MD, FACS

Journal of Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants, 2003
Department of Otorhinolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery,
University of Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

"Humidification of inspired air and hydration are other methods recommended to clear thick secretions. A cool mist humidifier, hot steamy showers, and drinking at least 8 full glasses of water per day are considered effective." citation
posted by ALongDecember at 12:21 PM on August 16, 2007

Just another note -- consider this thread a bonus cheat-sheet for your battle with the school, and be ready with calm answers to all of the questions and objections raised here.
posted by desuetude at 12:29 PM on August 16, 2007

I hear the whup-whup-whup-whup of a helicopter parent.

I didn't encounter water bottles until high school (maybe that had something to do with my middle school years not being coed.) But in high school (almost 15 years ago) the only students who carried around water bottles were girls. I would have died from embarrassment (and punches to the stomach) if my mother had sent me to middle school with a water bottle because she was concerned about me not being able to drink enough water during the day. Do your kids a favor and step back.
posted by emelenjr at 12:34 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

You don't really need all that much water.
posted by footnote at 12:44 PM on August 16, 2007

Disclosure: I am a middle school teacher who allows water bottles in my classroom.

Anybody who has seen what happens when four middle schoolers get mad at each other and douse each other with their water bottles, or who have had bullies dump water down the pants / over the head of their victims, or who have had a kid in tears because the water bottle spilled into their desk and ruined months of work including the only copy of their science essay, will understand that there may actually be reasons behind the rules besides the desire to be as controlling and authoritarian as possible. It doesn't need to rise to the level of alcohol / drug war hysteria for there to be some sort of reason behind it.

For me (and for the school at which I teach) those sorts of reasons don't rise to the level which would make me think I need to ban water bottles. But I could imagine, if there were a rash of incidents, why a school might impose such a rule.

If you think the rule is wrong (and I'd be likely to agree with you), work to get it changed. Please don't teach your children that they deserve privileges that every one else does not get. If they need water, so do their classmates. Your children will derive from situations like these their sense of what to do when they think those in authority are wrong. You can teach them to stand up for what's right, or you can teach them to game the system to get what they need even when others are not getting what they need.

If you decide to advocate to get the rule changed, begin by asking why the rule exists. Whether or not there is an answer to this question will give you a lot of information about whether the rule is rational or whether it's simply a restriction imposed by tinpot dictators who want to regiment kids' lives as much as possible.

If there is a reason, listen carefully to it. Imagine that you are in charge of 24 young adolescents for six hours - not just your two sons. See if the reasons have any validity from the school's point of view. If you think there is some validity, see if you can compromise. Maybe kids need more time between classes to get a drink, instead of water bottles.

If the school is just making up rules because they can, or because they want to teach submission to authority, then you'll be faced with the choice of telling your kids to break the rule openly, or to break it secretly.

But please do not use a doctor's note to imply special circumstances when their circumstances are no different from their classmates'. Breaking a school rule is no big deal, but the lessons you teach your sons - particularly at this age - about how to react against a mistaken authority will have lasting consequences.
posted by Chanther at 12:46 PM on August 16, 2007 [37 favorites]

I went to middle school at a school which had bizarre authoritarian policies such as this one, including the locker-searching/staring bit.

It would have meant a lot to me if my parents had backed me up, even once.

I agree with the suggestion where you get them a backpack with a hydration system. Unfortunately dogshit "schools" like this one often prevent students from carrying packs around. Barring that, I suggest you get the doctor to sign something about kidney stones, which will allow frequent bathroom breaks and drinks from the fountain.
posted by fake at 12:59 PM on August 16, 2007

How funny is it that so many people feel so strongly about this?

I had the same problem when I was in second grade and we weren't allowed to drink from the water fountain except at specified times. I am always thirsty and if I can't have water I start getting nervous, and then I can only think about how thirsty I am, and then I get sad... to THIS DAY! It's weird, I know. I can't leave the house without a bottle of water.

Anyway, my mom talked to the teacher and told her it was stressing me out to know that I couldn't get up and get a drink when I needed one. The teacher relented and said it was okay as long as I raised my hand before going. No big deal. No doctor's note. In fact, just knowing I could get a drink solved most of the problem. I rarely even took advantage of my special accommodation. So just ask. If you have such a great relationship with the pediatrician, I'm sure you're close with the teachers, as well.
posted by jrichards at 12:59 PM on August 16, 2007

My kids' middle school had/has this rule. My older child was perfectly okay with it, but my younger child gets more thirsty during the day and it really bothered her. She was on a team of teachers (4 in total) and one of them was really a stickler about upholding the rule. When asked about it during conferences (we were pretty puzzled about it too), the teacher said that it was a "bathroom" thing - there were too many kids disrupting class time by going to the bathroom (which they can't restrict), so the teachers all lobbied the administration to restrict water bottles.

We talked to the teacher about it - our daughter is a good student, and didn't run to the bathroom every ten minutes - and the teacher let her drink as long it wasn't too obvious. That seemed to solve the problem, and we didn't really see the need to go to the Principal.

I will say this: if your child is uncomfortable, then I would at least talk to the teacher first. I don't go for the school-of-hard-knocks, I suffered why shouldn't you type of stuff. I think that we can all evolve into kinder, gentler beings that don't make others suffer. After all, who can learn if they're constantly uncomfortable?
posted by Flakypastry at 1:19 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Simple solution get a drink from the bathroom sink, either use a cupped hand or a collapsable cup, problem solved.
posted by estronaut at 1:29 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

They are in school for six hours. Presumably lunch is in the middle of that. Also presumably they have access to water before school, and the aforementioned couple of trips to the fountain.

If you have them drink up before and after school, and push hydration during lunch, they will be fine. In fact, the water they drink the day before is more crucial to their overall hydration than those six relatively short hours in school.

(And I am a water fiend, trained by my spin instructor who is a water Nazi.)
posted by konolia at 1:42 PM on August 16, 2007

in my current life, i have water by me at almost all times. because i get dehydrated easily.

but in school (elementary thru high school) we were not allowed to have food or drink. at all. because of spillage reasons i'm sure.

we didn't have air conditioned rooms or buses (and it is fucking hot and humid at the beginning and end of the school years there).

if we were thirsty, we asked to go get a drink from the drinking fountain down the hall.

is that not an option?

i think there will be many more serious issues with your children's schooling in the future. don't fight this battle.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:54 PM on August 16, 2007

They can’t grab more than a few sips at the water fountain, because the whole class is lined up behind them, waiting to drink.

Provide your child with a collapsable water cup, like you use for camping - they can keep it in their pocket and fill it for a refreshing gulp of water at the water fountain instead of a sloppy sip. Just a thought. I agree that this is a policy that should be changed for EVERYONE and not just your kids. If there are long lines like that, many kids are desperate for water.
posted by agregoli at 2:21 PM on August 16, 2007

I hope you will advocate for more access to water fountains, rather than everybody carrying water bottles. Water bottles are an encumbrance, take up a lot of space (and resources to make/recycle), and introduce the possibility of problems as described by other posters here. (disclaimer: I use one occasionally, anyway -- but I'm not shy about using water fountains, either).
posted by amtho at 2:24 PM on August 16, 2007

Why is the "grab 3-4 sips" hurried? What if they just take their time when using the water fountain, *if* they are thirsty. Let the class wait a few more seconds.

If they aren't more thirsty, and if they get water at lunch, maybe there is no problem.
posted by citron at 2:41 PM on August 16, 2007

the teacher said that it was a "bathroom" thing - there were too many kids disrupting class time by going to the bathroom (which they can't restrict), so the teachers all lobbied the administration to restrict water bottles.

Yeah, typical educational philosophy, disregard biological needs because they are inconvenient.

With younger children the water bottle conundrum is usually solved by having a snack break before lunch with cups of water and crackers. Why this stops at a certain age is beyond me...do they assume kids develop food/water endurance? Adults at work snack and drink a lot...it's what humans do! I wish schools would recognize this.

It's natural to feel like this is an injustice. I think the whole helicopter parent screed is just from people who don't want to be held to higher standards when caring for children. A twelve year old shouldn't have to stand up for basic biology.
posted by melissam at 2:50 PM on August 16, 2007

Twelve? Let your boys deal with it; they'll either solve the problem themselves (there are a plethora of options available to them) or they will just go along with the present arrangement.

Either way, they will be absolutely fine. They have more than enough opportunity to drink a healthy amount of water before school, at lunch, after school and during breaks.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 3:40 PM on August 16, 2007

My elementary school had portable water coolers (e.g. Coleman camping water coolers) in the portables, since there was no ready access to drinking water. I was in an especially bad Grade 6 class. Kids put Comet cleaner, Ex-lax, dirt and other debris in the water. Water bottles were banned because kids poured water on others and others' work. At my high school, where water bottles were permitted, many students carried alcohol in the bottles.

That being said, I think access to drinking water is a right. But that doesn't mean your kids need special rules or water bottles. You should lobby for school policy to permit access to hallway drinking fountains (perhaps during class changes, if your school has those) or reasonable washroom breaks (your kid can stop in the hall or use a cupped hand / cup in the washroom).

If you've tried everything you can and your kids seem to have problems tolerating long periods without water, that's when you should break out the doctor's note. But first try changing (and understanding) the school policy.
posted by acoutu at 3:42 PM on August 16, 2007

It's simple - you think they need water all day long - they do not. It's very unlikely that they will suffer any ill effects from having less water during the day - they can work around the restrictions on when they're able to drink (kind of like everyone has had to everywhere.....)
posted by eb98jdb at 4:10 PM on August 16, 2007

Whoa, people are way bent out of shape about this. I hypothesize that "bottled water" has a range of connotations, which may be making people upset - I think to some people, "bottled water" = "privileged yuppie". Bottled water costs a buck and everyone drinks it all the time (you have to when you walk everywhere in 90 degree heat), and when I lived in crunchier West Coast climes, everyone carried a Nalgene. I'm don't get this luxury/effeminate/spoiled vibe at all. Water bottles seem totally normal to me, and banning them sounds like one of those rules that infuriated me in middle school because it was just so UNFAIR and nobody was willing to agree with me that it was unjust. I applaud you for backing your kids up on this.

The first thing that came to my mind was the first rule of weight loss: drink massive quantities of water all day long. Given the brouhaha over childhood obesity, perhaps you could frame it as a way to combat sugar dependence (juice, soda) or maintain a healthy weight. Aren't schools supposed to be pushing healthy food on kids? Water definitely fits in that category.
posted by alicetiara at 4:36 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

[again, chill with the eye rolloing and bottled water cnn links. metatalk is where you go to get offtopic.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:55 PM on August 16, 2007

No it isn't that "bottled water" = "privileged yuppy" ... of course its cheap and/or you can also refill a plastic bottle for free.

The objection here is more along the lines of "neurotic mom micromanaging her kids biological functions , overly worried if they don't get a drink for a few hours, thinks they have special needs for water." Kids with this kind of interference will have problems standing on their own when they grow up.
A kid can be thirsty for a long time with no ill effects. Last time I checked being thirsty doesn't cause sore throats. Besides, I'm sure these kids have plenty of chance to get enough water. Millions of kids have gone their entire school career with only water fountain water with no ill effects.
posted by jockc at 4:59 PM on August 16, 2007

To whom it may concern:

Please allow [x] to bring a water bottle to school and keep it in his possession for the entire school day.

If there are any questions, contact my office at xxxxxxx.

Yours truly, DocInTheBox
The nice thing about that is that it ducks the question of a rationale entirely. The school needs a doctor's letter to permit a violation of their stupid rule. The doc needs to get this taken care of quickly. The kids need to drink water. Everyone gets their needs met, except the teacher who now has to deal with these kids squirting everyone else. If the kids behave there will be no problem.

No one ever calls the office to check up on this kind of letter. If they do I tell them that they're not authorized to receive any information about any medical condition that [x] may or may not have, and that if they wish to be authorized they'll need to have [x] ([x]'s guardian, in this case) sign a consent form to release that information.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:05 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Okay, I'm going to say this as a mother of two boys, middle school and high school: the school makes rules that they feel are in the best interest of everyone, and sometimes, LOTS of times, schools screw up.

And what works in this situation--trust me, it's how I've learned to deal with stuff like this--is to make it very clear that your children take water bottles to school. And that's all there is to it.

If the teacher has a problem with you, he/she is welcome to talk to you. If the principal would like to discuss this, you are, of course, always available. But the situation is not up for debate. Your children take water bottles to school.

If they get obstinate and ask you to come to school, bring articles (and they are easy to find) about the dangers of dehydration, children who passed out or even worse on the playing field because their coach denied them water, whatever. Be pleasant, but persistent. This is the way it is. Your children take water bottles to school.

Now, to other MeFites, please don't feel that I am saying you should apply this philosophy to every rule in life, and I don't encourage anyone to think he/she is above the law.

But sometimes schools over-react to specific incidences--like taking all the lockers out of every school after Columbine so that kids can't hide a gun in their locker--with the best of intentions. AND because they worry over liability. So the best way to deal with it is to accept that it is a stupid rule, and show them that liability goes both ways.
posted by misha at 5:09 PM on August 16, 2007

I've read through this thread and have to agree that, ultimately, you're hovering too much. They're 12, which means until very recently, the boys weren't able to take care of themselves in most respects, but they're now at an age that they're getting more and more independent. You probably feel justified with your hovering because of your son(s?)' medical condition, but that doesn't really make sense to me, either.

School is about 7 hours long, with lunch in the middle, 50-or-so minute classes with about 5 minutes inbetween? So if they can get water between classes--and it really makes no sense if they can't do this--then it's really a matter of them sitting through one, maybe two classes without a drink of water. That would be a very strange and very serious medical condition, and if true and your doctor agrees, then he/she'll most assuredly write the note. Also, you mentioned a sore throat--how about throat lozenges?

But sorry to say it just sounds like you're being overprotective. I'm not knocking it, it's way better than being underprotective!
posted by zardoz at 5:51 PM on August 16, 2007

Now, to other MeFites, please don't feel that I am saying you should apply this philosophy to every rule in life, and I don't encourage anyone to think he/she is above the law.

So it's ok to be above the law with respect to school policies, but not so outside of school?

You must be a real hit at PTA meetings.

Also, what Chanther said.
posted by drpynchon at 6:49 PM on August 16, 2007

Actually, I am a hit at PTA meetings, because I volunteer umpteen hours. But it's a ridiculous policy. Water bottles don't hurt anyone.

You may think the Mom is hovering, but a lot of this depends on location. It could be 90 degrees there. And she didn't say, "should I give them water?" She asked how to do it.
posted by misha at 6:57 PM on August 16, 2007

If your kids want more water, you could encourage them to talk to administrators (or get a group of kids together to talk to administrators, if the kids don't want to do it on their own). That will get them more water AND teach them a lesson about how to get changes made in the system (or why the rule is in place in the first place).
posted by srah at 7:02 PM on August 16, 2007

I'm an old codger, and we didn't have watter bottles back when I was in school. But my junior high and high schools both had vending machines with soda pop and juice available, and the rule was you could NOT bring food or drink to class with you. If we were thirsty, we grabbed a drink at the water fountain between classes, or raised our hands and asked for the hall pass. Even in classes where teachers prohibited gum-chewing, we were allowed cough drops or Lifesavers. If your child has a sore throat, perhaps a losenge might tide him over until he can make it to the water fountain.
posted by Oriole Adams at 8:52 PM on August 16, 2007

My husband is a teacher in the public high school system and I have worked in the public school system. I do completely understand why they don’t want a classroom full of kids having water bottles. I did not want my kids to have water bottles in the classroom, to be squishing and slurping them around the other kids who don’t have water bottles. I wanted them to have access to water during the two times in the day that they can go to their locker. This is not about them drinking water “constantly” or “carrying around water bottles”. It’s also not about the environmental costs of water bottles, but I do use reusable water bottles. They are on the bus and in school for 8 ½ hours, not 6 or 7. The teachers looked at me askance when I asked if they could raise their hands to get a drink, then finally allowed how maybe every once in a while they could do that.

They can only get water during the periods I mentioned and the teachers closely control where they go. Many people pointed out that this did not make sense, as though I were in error about it. I am not in error about this. They cannot get water when they change classes. The classes are very close together on one side of the hall and the water fountains are on the other side of the hall.

He’s actually very stoic, and his pediatrician and I have learned to pay attention to his discomforts because he rarely complains unless there is something going on.
He will say he doesn’t feel quite right for 2 days in a row, and I take him to the pediatrician and both ears are bleeding from an upper respiratory infection. He’s come quietly to stand beside me and listen to me finish a long conversation with other adults, and then whisper to me that he hurt his knee, resulting in a trip to the emergency room with 11 stitches. Just last week we discovered that his occasional complaints of leg pain were actually signals of problems in his ankle and we have to see an orthopedic surgeon. I’m not going to continue to provide examples of how his pediatrician and I have learned that we need to take his complaints seriously.

Regarding the idea that I am softening my children: First of all, some people really are more uncomfortable without water than others. That’s just the way of it—people are different. Perhaps we should have been left out on a mountaintop so as not to corrupt the gene pool, but this is not a moral failing. I grew up without medical attention except when the school called my parents and insisted that I be treated. My parents believed that kids didn’t feel pain or discomfort the way that adults did. You can surmise that I was not coddled. Surviving through rough times can provide a sense of independence and self-efficacy. It can also result in ways of thinking and acting that are dysfunctional once you are an adult and no longer powerless. Kids that grow up without parental help and involvement miss out on opportunities, chances to grow, etc. I would have learned a lot more during school if I had not been so sick and hungry all the time. I’ve had to remediate my own learning and I started college and grad school years behind everyone else.

I constantly question whether I am protecting him too much. He a fine boy, considerate, a little shy, but he’s better and better at standing up for himself. He spent 6 years working his butt off to overcome dyslexia, progressing from not being able to read in 2nd grade to being in Honor’s Language in 7th. He's not too soft or weak.

Thanks for your replies. The objections were useful to me and helped me clarify why this was important for my children.
posted by aliksd at 7:06 AM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think access to water is a basic human need and shouldn't be disallowed. However, on the CamelBaks -

I know that my school banned carrying backpacks shortly after I graduated, except from home to locker and locker to home, ostensibly for security. So hydration backpacks may not be an answer for everyone. Also, I would think a school would be more opposed to a backpack than to a water bottle, because the backpack is not clear like a water bottle and they could put anything in it.

That said, when I was in high school I regularly carried a non-clear thermos full of coffee, when I was a before-school aide. I just didn't drink it in class.
posted by IndigoRain at 6:09 PM on August 18, 2007

I'm with the "stay out of this" crowd. You are going to turn your boys into weaklings if you fight such small battles for them with such passion. Whup. Whup.

When I was 12 I knew how to sneak outside and smoke, where to buy a joint from a 9th grader, where to go to make out with my girlfriend, and how to get off campus at lunch if necessary. I knew I could sit on my ass through the f**ing pledge of allegiance and get away with it. All of it was "against the rules," of course. Violating those rules on my own initiative taught me to fend for myself. An occasional detention was a small price to pay for the pride of self-sufficiency. I'd have died if Mama had come to school to bail me out. As it was, I was emancipated in all but legal fact by 16, and truly on my own by 19.

Highly recommended, for girls too, that they learn to fend for themselves over the little things. They'll thank you when they need to do bigger things for themselves later.

Save your interventions for the serious shit to come.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:58 AM on August 20, 2007

Personally, when I have an upper respiratory infection, I need to be sipping water almost constantly to maintain a reasonable level of comfort. And by that I mean every couple of minutes I need to take a swallow.

I'm also the sort of person who'll get to 7pm, and say "Oops! I forgot to drink anything today. Oh well." - I don't feel thirst, except in truly exceptional circumstances.

If someone said I couldn't have my water source, I would be *more* than grouchy. Drinking much more than a cup of water at a time (except under exceptional circumstances) makes me feel quite ill, so I don't do it. However, I need to drink about 12 cups of water or so a day, often more. If all I had was 2 breaks during my work day in which to drink water, I would be lucky to get half of that in. I recall, as a child, I had to drink smaller quantities more often - and an underabundance of water (no water bottles, too shy to ask to go to the bubblers) led to me habituating myself not to drink water at all, unless it was absolutely necessary. As a result, I had to relearn how to drink water as an adult, after coming to the realization at one point that it had been 6 months since the last time I'd had a glass of water (at age 19). And yeah, I don't wake up with a hangover-headache due to dehydration any more like I used to.

I guess what I'm saying is this: do stand up for your children; healthy habits are best formed young.
posted by ysabet at 6:36 AM on August 20, 2007

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