State Board of Education Allows Diet Sodas Back Into Schools

Students in Colorado will soon have access to diet sodas at school.
Students in Colorado will soon have access to diet sodas at school.

Despite protests by parents, students, nutrition advocates and dentists, the Colorado State Board of Education today finalized its plan to put diet sodas back into public-school vending machines.

At its regular meeting, the board approved a proposal to bring the state's school nutrition rules in line with federal rules, which were recently loosened to permit the sale of diet sodas for the first time since 2009.

The 4-3 vote, split along party lines, came after the board heard public testimony on the change. Dentists and nutrition experts decried the evils of diet sodas and a succession of Hispanic parents from Denver Public Schools told of their kids' struggles with obesity and diabetes. With an interpreter's help, they described how they managed their children's nutrition at home and how their efforts would be thwarted if low-nutrition temptations were welcomed back into schools. 

The Republican majority sided with the school districts and school nutrition managers who had complained that they had two sets of rules to follow once the feds relaxed theirs. Aligning the state rules to the federal rules makes their jobs easier. It also boosts the coffers of school sports booster clubs and other groups that rely on the income from soda sales.

By the time the board voted, the parents had already left the meeting room, but they marched back in after hearing the result and interrupted the board to complain. Gloria Borada, a mother of three students in the Denver district, told the board, "You're not thinking about the needs of the students, you're thinking about money over the students. Money is all you care about."

That prompted board chairman Steve Durham, who voted for the rule change, to leave his chair and approach a security guard.

"Throw these people out," he said.

The parents left peacefully.

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