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Proving Their Mettle for Metal

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The protesters at the Four Corners Elementary School had been striking a blow for civility. They wanted stainless steel in the lunchroom, rather than plastic forks.

And last week, after a peaceful rebellion encouraged by teachers, the Greenfield, Mass., 5th graders got just what they wanted: 300 sets of utensils donated by a local businessman.

It all started, said Mary Ann Clarkson, the school's principal, when the students learned that their stainless-steel dining ware had been sent to the local high school and that they would be using plastic substitutes.

The schools' lunchroom inventories were short, she explained, because, a fourth of the utensils are lost or accidentally discarded each year--and because food improvements have enticed more students to eat school lunches.

But the 5th graders were not to be denied their culinary rights. They drew up a petition protesting the policy and demanding a return to stainless steel. In what came to be known in the local media as "the plastic-fork rebellion," they weilded posters that succinctly stated their case: "School is no picnic."

Protest organizers enlisted students to patrol trash cans to prevent loss of the plastic utensils and "prove they were worthy" of metal, Ms. Clarkson said.

Their actions were not discouraged, she said, because school officials saw it as a "red-hot opportunity to teach them that they had some rights," particularly in the context of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Upon hearing of their plight, William Sandri, a local restaurateur and alumnus of the school, offered to donate utensils from a restaurant he was redecorating.

When Mr. Sandri arrived at the school, bearing his stainless-steel gift, students were so elated, Ms. Clarkson said, that "the roof nearly went off the auditorium."--D.G.

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