Happy Meal offer leaves mom unhappy

She objects to a McDonald's ad on the cover of her daughter's report card from school.

Associated Press
Published December 6, 2007

ORLANDO - An Orlando parent said she was appalled when her 9-year-old daughter brought home her report card cover and it contained an advertisement for McDonald's promising free Happy Meals for good grades, attendance and behavior.

Her complaint prompted the Boston child advocacy group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood to demand Wednesday that McDonald's immediately stop the report card advertising in the Seminole County School District.

"The promotion takes in-school marketing to a new low," said Susan Linn, the co-founder and director of the campaign, who said she had not contacted the restaurant chain or the school district. The group issued its demands in a news release.

"Children's lives are just saturated with advertising and marketing. Schools should be commercial-free space," Linn said. "It bypasses parents and targets children directly with the message that doing well in school should be rewarded with a Happy Meal."

Regina Klaers, a district spokeswoman, said school officials are not aware of the group's demands and had a complaint from only one parent.

McDonald's paid $1,600 to print 27,000 jackets for elementary school report cards. Before that, Pizza Hut printed the covers for the past 10 years, she said.

The School Board will revisit the issue in the spring when it considers who will sponsor next year's covers, she said.

The issue came to light last week when Susan Pagan's daughter Cathy, a fourth-grader at Red Bug Elementary School, brought home her report card and wanted to get a free Happy Meal because she earned good grades.

Pagan told her daughter, "Our family does not eat at fast food chains," Pagan said. "And now I'm the bad guy."

Pagan said she is not opposed to fast food, but she said there are professional and appropriate ways in addressing sponsorship and "not directly bombarding our children with this marketing."