Chalk one up for the school on the turtle wars. Let's hope it doesn't end in a lawsuit in which their small victory becomes a huge defeat. Guess what they gave out at the end of our school's Christmas posada? Nasty little salmonella carrying turtles. Those of you who have long memories and have actually read this blog over the course of our tour here know that I've been on the warpath about the turtles before with our school. The sale of turtles with shells of less than four inches in width has been prohibited since 1975 because, yes, they carry salmonella. The bacteria apparently flourishes naturally on their skin and shells. A cursory search online will yield the news of various salmonella outbreaks in recent years in the U.S. that have been traced back to turtles. When Iris first began attending, our school had turtles in an open tank in the babies' classroom. Granted, we were not in the U.S., but a health regulation that has stood the test of time for forty years there (and numerous salmonella outbreaks have been traced back to turtles in the U.S., in spite of the ban) might be worth considering when one, you are a school that desperately wants more foreign, and especially English-speaking students, and two, you've got a mother of just such students who patiently explains why it's not a good idea, over and over again. It took me the better part of six months to convince them to remove the little beasts. At the time, I explained to no less than three administrators, including the owners of the school, why allowing bite size turtles in an preschool classroom was a bad idea. I was clear. I was concise. I was polite but insistent, in both languages no less. They understood. Or at least I thought they did, until they took the remarkably irresponsible action of giving away the gods only know how many turtles today. And to make matters worse, in a moment of parental panic (not wanting the girls to be upset, not wanting to appear ungrateful after all the work the school's teachers had put into the posada, which was great, and just generally not wanting to be those disagreeable gringos), we took two turtles home. By the time we had gotten to the house, tremendous remorse and utter despair at what idiots we were and not a small amount of annoyance with the school had set in and we had decided that the turtles were not staying. The girls, ironically, did not seem to care one way or another. After all, we have a huge dog who is ultimately a lot more interesting, entertaining, and affectionate than a reptile could ever be. Those fearing the worst for the turtles should be reassured. Mike headed back to work with plans to dump the turtles at the school with apologies and a subtly phrased reminder that they were not the healthiest of gifts for a preschool to give out, but our door guy already has two and wanted to expand the turtle family. Happy ending. We also avoided an awkward moment with the school's administration at the end of a very nice day on which we would prefer to appreciate their hard work. But yes, you might guess that I am secretly hoping that someone from the school sees this (I have a feeling they take a peek every once in a while, especially after last year's politically incorrect posada). So if you're family or a friend or someone in the FS or thinking about the FS who is curious about our life or just one of our stalkers, you can probably stop reading right here. If, however, you happen to be someone from the school, you should click on the links below and learn about salmonella. I know you can read English if you've gotten this far, so do it, for the sake of the children you take care of at your otherwise quite wonderful school, and also for the sake of the pregnant moms and grandparents and anyone with a compromised immune system. Salmonella can at the very least make one miserable and in the worst case scenario, it can kill. And there are enough food-borne illnesses in this country that we should take the precautions to eliminate another factor, especially among a vulnerable population like our children. Take a look at these sites to learn more:
Center for Disease Control Healthy Pets
US Food & Drug Administration Salmonella and Turtle Safety
And while I'm ranting, I bet there will be a lot of little turtle deaths within the coming weeks as a result of this ill-conceived gesture, accidental and otherwise. The directions for care that came with them were inadequate and while a turtle is not an expensive or difficult pet to maintain, asking parents in this economy, in this country, to lay out the cash for an appropriate tank, rocks, a filter, etc., a week before Christmas, knowing that half those families will go on vacation, was just not smart. I don't care for them, but they are living creatures after all.