As ridiculous as it is to have an opt-out clause for parents who do not want their children to drink chocolate milk in local public schools (this isn’t sex ed or frog dissection where ethics are at issue), it was the best decision the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified Board of Education could make.

With a 5-2 vote, the school board before a capacity crowd instructed staff Wednesday night to create a process for parents to notify schools that their children should not be served flavored milk, which some say contains too much sugar and calories, contributing to the rise in childhood obesity.

There was a lot of emotion coming from both sides. There were those who wanted the SMMUSD to follow the lead of other school districts and outright ban flavored milk. Others said chocolate milk was the least of their worries and banning it could lead to less kids drinking milk, an important source of calcium. The district serves about 11,500 students, with nearly a third qualifying for free or reduced-priced meals that include the chocolate milk.

The Daily Press was never in support of an outright ban. We felt that the benefits of drinking milk, whether it be chocolate or strawberry, far outweighed the negatives, especially if parents are making sure that their kids are eating healthy at home and are staying active. If parents are providing nutritional food for breakfast and dinner, and are making sure their kids get off the couch, then a few extra teaspoons of sugar shouldn’t matter. In the end, it all comes down to parental involvement. The school board’s compromise gives parents the power to say yes or no to flavored milk.

Now, instead of wasting hours debating chocolate milk, let’s focus on what really matters: reforming the disciplinary policies of the district, which the school board didn’t get to because some people love the sound of their own voice and decided debating the benefits of milk dispensers over cartons was crucial. Wouldn’t it be nice if parents and board members did the same amount of research and argued with the same amount of fervor about curriculum, closing the achievement gap or other critical issues.

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