A mother is up in arms after her son’s teacher poured his drink down the sink on a boiling hot day. The school has a water-only policy, and the five-year-old brought squash, a fruit-flavored beverage made from a concentrated syrup. The temperature was 28 degrees that day (82 degrees Fahrenheit), and although his teacher gave him water, his mother explains that Rocky refuses to drink anything but blackcurrant squash. Stephanie Lapham, 34, explains that her son came home from school with a headache and “was crying all night” from dehydration. Lapham claims that the teacher’s action was “child neglect” on such a hot day.
“His teacher had poured his drink down the sink”
Lapham details the incident as follows: “Rocky returned to school on Monday after the summer holidays and went into Year One with a new teacher. He came home from school on Tuesday complaining of a headache all evening, really upset and holding his head.”
She couldn’t believe what the teacher did at first. “He has speech and language development issues, so when he was crying and told me on Tuesday night that his teacher had poured his drink down the sink, I thought he must have got that wrong, and there was no way that happened.”
So, the next day, Lapham spoke with the teacher to confirm the story. “As I was dropping him off to school the next day, l thought I’d quickly pop over to check with the teacher, and she said, ‘Yeah that’s right — school policy is water.’
“I said, ‘So are you saying on the hottest day of the year you poured my son’s drink away?’ I told her Rocky had been crying all night.”
Additionally, Lapham argued the policy, especially how the teacher specifically checked Rocky’s water bottle. “Number one, it’s sugar-free, but two, it’s nothing to do with her. It’s a sealed [opaque] bottle and she went out of her way to look inside. They’re there to learn.” 
“I can’t help it if he won’t drink water”
So she kept Rocky at home the following day and went to see the headteacher, Simon Botten. He reiterated their water-only policy but added the teacher shouldn’t have poured out the drink. Still, Lapham refused to leave Rocky in that teacher’s hands, so Botten allowed Rocky to keep his squash until the half-term “to wean him off”.
This was not a phrase Lapham was happy with. “The head told me the policy will not change under any circumstances and I’m to ‘wean him off’. Rocky’s not a drug addict. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. What Rocky brings in is 99 percent water with a few drops of squash. I said that it’s worse having dehydrated children who end up in hospital. I suggested Rocky could bring in a bottle of Volvic sugar-free water with a hint of blackcurrant, lemon, or strawberry flavor in it, and the head also refused that.”
The mother is not happy with the school’s rigid policy. “They put different options on the dinner menu because children are fussy. You could understand it more if I was giving him Red Bull or Coca Cola, but it’s a bit of squash. In Reception, he was allowed squash. He would take a bottle in each day.”
She adds that her child, like so many, is picky about what he eats and drinks. “He will not drink water. We will go on holiday and have to take bottles of squash, because he’s so particular and he likes routine. For his school dinner, he has a plain ham sandwich every day without fail. Am I happy with that? Not really, but at least he’s having something, and it’s the same with the squash. I can’t help it if he won’t drink water. It’s not their place to judge.”
“The water-only rule will ‘eventually need to be followed’”
In a response statement, Botten explains that the school prides itself on taking the children’s health seriously. The squash ban came about over concerns about tooth decay. He stated: “We are very proud of this culture we have created and therefore look to ensure that our children are taught about healthy diets from an early age.
“Like every other school in the local area, and on the advice of the NHS school nurses, Blackhorse has a long-standing policy of only allowing children to bring water in their water bottles. This is because children are allowed to drink from their water bottles throughout the day and sipping on squash throughout the day is known to cause tooth decay.”
“…The teacher was following our school policy, by replacing Rocky’s squash with water, but we discussed Ms. Lapham’s concerns with her when she told her that Rocky hadn’t drunk the water provided on a hot day. I apologized that the school’s policy hadn’t been clearly communicated to her and that Rocky was left thirsty.”
In the meantime, Rocky is allowed to drink squash but the water-only rule will “eventually need to be followed”. Botten offers the school nurse’s help for “strategies to encourage Rocky to drink water”.
“Having discussed the issue with staff and the school nurse, we agreed that, as the pandemic had led to our water policy being loosened, we would allow those children whose parents tell us they don’t like water to bring squash until half-term so that parents can gradually get the children used to drinking water over this period,” he said. “We felt that this was an appropriate compromise and we communicated this to Ms. Lapham and the other parents.”