School Sends Note Home Demanding That Sick Kids Be Picked Up 'Definitely Within an Hour'

Every working mom gets “the call,” which is usually “the voicemail” because we’re not glued to our phones at work. It’s when school or daycare contacts you to let you know you have to pick up your child, stat, because she’s running a fever, breaking out in a scary-looking rash or puking all over the classroom. I’ve run out of meetings and stopped typing mid-sentence upon getting the call to make the next train, which is always departing in less time than I need to get there.

Hong Le-Smith, a teacher from Quincy, MA, was recently alerted that her daughter was too ill to stay in class and needed to be retrieved. So the mom who works in Boston made it to her daughter’s school in an hour-and-a-half. Apparently, that timing wasn’t good enough for Hong’s daughter’s school, who sent the following note home to parents.


Hong believes that the letter was written for her. The circled portion of the note reads:

“We realize that juggling schedules is challenging and that some days as a parent are just easier than others but we are asking that if your child is ill or needs to be picked up from school early for any health related reason please make every effort to be here as soon as possible, definitely within an hour. We isolate any sick children as much as possible but our goal is obviously to keep everyone healthy and having an ill child remain at school is not ideal for anyone involved, most importantly that child.”

One commenter noted, “Don’t you love those passive aggressive notes. Lol.” It may be the first, but it certainly won’t be the last.

The school probably had the best of intentions in writing that letter. After all, they’re just trying to keep students healthy. And I really do appreciate that they acknowledged that juggling schedules is hard. Uh, yes, yes it is. But the hour-and-a-half it took Hong to get from her own classroom to her daughter is reasonable, in my book. That’s just how long it takes anyone who works in a big city to make it out to the suburbs. My own train runs local outside of rush hour, so from midday daycare phone call to pickup, an hour and 15 minutes is my best case scenario. That quick commute has happened exactly one time out of the dozen or so my 3-year-old has had to be picked up from daycare. The occurrence was so stunning, the center director even remarked, “That was fast,” when I arrived, hungry, sweaty and breathless, clutching my laptop.

What’s noteworthy here is that Hong (above) is a mom and a teacher. So she too deals with sick kids. She too hopes parents come get them in a timely manner. She too wants to keep her other students out of harm’s way. And yet, she too is subject to mom-shaming.

School administrators, requesting that parents pick up their ill children in a timely manner makes sense. But that “definitely within an hour” caveat doesn’t; it’s simply not realistic. Working mothers don’t necessarily have jobs that are less than an hour away from their kids’ schools, and even if they do, they may not get your call or be able to escape immediately. Offering them support and resources, say, a network of generous stay-at-home parents to help them out in a pinch (we’ll return the favor … somehow) or a larger sick room to accommodate kids who may need the space for an hour-and-a-half instead of an hour would be so appreciated.

by Meredith Bodgas for Working Mother

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