School cafeterias—at least for the most part—are pretty damn grim affairs. Nothing turns a meal from good to totally miserable quite like the morose and omnipresent judgment of your oh-so-fair-minded peers. Couple that with food reminiscent of the the hellish cornucopia of Vietnam-era military rations, and you are talking about a crappy meal to rival all crappy meals.
But one French school in the wine-loving region of Burgundy is taking its school lunches to heretofore-unseen levels of dread and desolation. The school was recently caught forcing its Muslim and Jewish pupils with dietary restrictions to wear a color-coded disk around their necks in some sort of ill-conceived effort to avoid students from "receiving the wrong meals."
The staff of Piedalloues primary school in Auxerre, Burgundy, reportedly demanded that all members of its student body who did not consume pork wear red disks around their necks. Those who did not eat meat in general were given yellow disks. According to The Telegraph, 18 out of the roughly 1,500 students were made to wear the brightly colored identification disks.
After all, doesn't the humiliation of being treated like branded cattle pale in comparison to the horror of having to tell your lunch lady that you, in fact, might have some dietary restrictions like every other damn human on this earth?
The school has since dropped the ill-conceived system after numerous parents objected and likened the disks to the yellow stars Jewish citizens were forced to wear during the Nazi-led Third Reich. One local councilor, Malika Ounès, told The Telegraph that she believed the entire concept to be "revolting," "unacceptable," and an unwelcome reminder of "the darkest times."
Apparently, Ounès isn't the only one appalled by the disk system. Christian Sautier, director of communications for the local mayor's office, even said that city officials "fell out" of their chairs after hearing about the "isolated" and "clumsy" initiative. Auxerre's mayor has since launched a full investigation into the matter, which Sautier claims was implemented by school staff without notifying or seeking the approval of any officials at all.
But what are school officials saying in the wake of the blowback? Well, one staff member told France TV Info that the disks were simply brought about in an effort to ensure that no child received the wrong meal and that no element of discrimination was intended.
But the problem was exacerbated by its timing. The unfortunate incident comes not long after Marine Le Pen, leader of the ultra-right wing Front National party, eagerly pounced on growing racial tensions and pledged to prevent France's schools from providing non-pork lunches for the nation's Muslim and Jewish population. That's one way to alienate almost 5 million French nationals with a single, ill-conceived view of secularism.
"We will not accept any religious demands in school menus," Le Pen proclaimed to RTL radio. "There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere, that's the law."
Gives whole new meaning to the Farley/Sandler lunch lady song, right?