Lakewood mother complains about school policy after 11-year-old could not retrieve jacket during recess

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LAKEWOOD, Colo. -- A local mom is upset with her daughter's school after the 11-year-old was not allowed to retrieve her jacket during recess on a cold day.

When Amber Martinez asked her daughter Angelina how school was on Tuesday, she didn’t expect her to be so upset. On Tuesday, Martinez says Angelina brought her jacket to school at Belmar Elementary in Lakewood. She says Angelina left her coat in her classroom, thinking they would be having recess indoors that day. When her classmates started shuffling outside, she tried to go back in and get the jacket, when Martinez says a teacher told her daughter students weren’t allowed back inside during recess due to school policy.

“My daughter made a mistake either way. Does that mean she sits in freezing temperatures?” Martinez said.

A Jeffco Public Schools spokesperson says generally, elementary schools will suspend recess if the temperature falls below 20 degrees, but they take wind, snow and rain into account as well. The Pinpoint Weather team says it felt like 16 to 19 degrees outside during lunchtime in Lakewood on that day because of the wind chill.

“People get angry about dogs being left out in that temperature, and you just left my child, when she had a jacket,” Martinez said.

In emails from the principal, Martinez was told “Students are not allowed to return to the classroom when teachers are not in the rooms.” The principal said, “We stand by the decision made at recess. If you feel this action is ‘child abuse,’ you are welcome to report the incident to Human Services.”

“I just felt like it was a way to push off responsibility, and [pointing] the finger versus trying to solve the problem,” Martinez said.

The principal and Martinez went back and forth with emails. The principal told her, “On that day, we had students making all sorts of choices about the clothing they wore outside and we do work with ‘natural consequences’ at Belmar.”

“To me, it’s policy versus safety,” Martinez said. “Safety should always be first. If a child is telling you, 'I’m cold, can I go inside? Can I get my jacket?' I don’t think you should deny a child that at all.”

A Jeffco Public Schools spokesperson says students at Belmar get about 15 minutes outside for recess. The spokesperson said, “We appreciate this parent reaching out with her concern. The school has investigated this issue and will continue to communicate with the parent and student.”

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