Filipino Table Etiquette Punished at Local Lchool

A Roxboro woman has filed a formal complaint with a local school board after her son was disciplined by a lunch program monitor at Ecole Lalande for eating in what she says is a customary Filipino manner.

Luc Cagadoc’s table behaviour is traditionally Filipino; he fills his spoon by pushing the food on his plate with a fork, his mother, Maria Theresa Gallardo, says.

But after being punished by his school’s lunch program monitor more than 10 times this year for his mealtime conduct — including his technique — the seven-year-old told Gallardo said last week that he was too embarrassed to eat his dinner.

“Mommy, I don’t want to eat anymore,” Gallardo says Luc told her at the kitchen table April 11. “My teacher is telling me that eating with a spoon and fork is yucky and disgusting.”

When he eats with both a spoon and fork, instead of only one utensil, the Grade 2 students said the lunch monitor moves him to a table to sit by himself.

Upset over Luc’s story, Gallardo confronted the lunchtime caregiver the next day and on April 13, she telephoned the school’s principal, Normand Bergeron. His reaction brought her to tears, she says. “His response was shocking to me,” Gallardo, who moved to Montreal from the Philippines in 1999, told The Chronicle. “He said, ‘Madame, you are in Canada. Here in Canada you should eat the way Canadians eat.’

“I find it very prejudiced and it’s racist. He’s supposed to be acting like a professional. This is supposed to be a free country with free expressions of culture and religion. This is how we eat; we eat with a fork and spoon.”

Luc’s father, Aldrin Cagadoc, was also surprised by the comment. “I can’t believe even the principal would say that,” he said. “A person of that calibre, I wouldn’t expect him to say that.”

Gallardo, who operates a day care out of her Roxboro home and is close to completing her studies in early childhood education, wrote a letter last week and lodged a formal complaint to the Commission scolaire Marguerite Bourgeoys (CSMB) yesterday.

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She disagrees with the lunch monitor’s approach to teaching children how to eat and says it is emotionally abusive to Luc. When she questioned Bergeron about punishing students for their table habits, she says he replied that, “If your son eats like a pig he has to go to another table because this is the way we do it and how we’re going to do it every time.”

But Bergeron says it was Luc’s eating technique combined with his behaviour at the table that was inappropriate that day, which is why he was moved. “Luc can be turbulent,” he said yesterday. “Like other children, he is frequently in situations where we have to intervene. It’s normal, he’s a child. He is in a period of learning.”

The principal of the 387-student Roxboro school said he explained his position on using two utensils to Gallardo during their telephone conversation. “I said, ‘Here, this is not the manner in which we eat.’

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“I don’t necessarily want students to eat with one hand or with only one instrument, I want them to eat intelligently at the table,” he said. “I want them to eat correctly with respect for others who are eating with them. That’s all I ask. Personally, I don’t have any problems with it, but it is not the way you see people eat every day. I have never seen somebody eat with a spoon and a fork at the same time.”

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CSMB spokesman Brigitte Gauvreau says the board will not comment — due to confidentiality procedures — until Gallardo’s complaint is filed and she makes a public statement.

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