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Utah elementary school’s partnership with Chick-fil-A upsets parents

Wednesday, September 12, 2012
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DRAPER, Utah — Some parents in this suburban Salt Lake City community are expressing concern over a recent decision by Draper Elementary to have a local Chick-fil-A franchise sponsor a school spirit night, and provide catering for students celebrating birthdays during the school year.

The decision to partner with Chick-fil-A was announced by principal Kenna Sorensen in an e-mail to parents, and in an announcement in the school’s newsletter.

Peter Pedersen, father of a first grade student and a fourth grade student at Draper Elementary, told The Salt Lake Tribune he was not happy with Sorensen’s actions.

“I am really surprised and concerned that Draper Elementary would choose to partner with the restaurant Chick-fil-A at a time when that company has become a symbol for the Gay Marriage/Marriage Equality debate going on in our country,” Pedersen wrote in an e-mail he sent to Sorensen, and also shared with the Tribune.

The Tribune noted that Sorensen’s controversial decision could be an affront to LGBT parents:

[A]fter a summer in which purchasing a chicken sandwich from the Georgia-based fast-food chain became emblematic of one’s position on gay marriage, some Draper Elementary parents are questioning whether the partnership with Chick-fil-A could be construed as demeaning to children from gay and lesbian families.

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Pedersen said he realizes that many Draper residents have no problem with Chick-fil-A’s political statements, but said the school could easily partner with a business that isn’t as controversial.

“It creates a negative environment if the school or the district is seen as endorsing or promoting Chick-fil-A, who is a poster child of the [anti-]gay marriage movement,” said Pedersen.

Sorensen defended her decision, and said that the partnership with Chick-fil-A would help “recognize and reward” students.

The restaurant will also sponsor quarterly “spirit nights,” where 10 percent of all sales made during a two-hour period will be donated to the school.

“I think this is an amazing and generous donation from Chick-fil-A,” Sorensen wrote in the newsletter, “and we are only one of five local elementary schools that will receive this partnership benefit.”

Pedersen disagreed: “I know that our school is not a partisan entity and is not involved in this debate in any way (as it should not be) but for many people, this action appears to give approval and endorsement of that particular political position.”

“Additionally, whether intentional or not, I believe for many families with gay children or parents, this may be interpreted as a very personal attack on them,” he added.

At least two parents so far have complained about the partnership, according to a spokesman, who also said Sorensen received a half dozen emails from parents who were complimentary of the incentive program.

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