Back in the day, parents worried about their kids going to convenience stores and trying to buy beer and cigarettes.

Now, Mountain Dew is taboo.

Some Lowcountry schools have joined with Kangaroo Express stores to reward students for good behavior by giving them 20-ounce tumblers called Roo cups. The deal is you can take it into the store and allow your cup to runneth over for a quarter.

The Kangaroo cups are quite popular with the kids, but some parents are, well, hopping mad.

They believe the schools are enabling kids to spend their summers loading up on sugary drinks and getting fat.

“We want our kids to hydrate, not fill up on sugars and dyes,” says Tina Arnold, whose son got a Roo cup at the Daniel Island School. “My kids eat well, and we don't want them filling up on junk.”

And the way Arnold sees it, the school just gave her kid a license to fill.

20 ounces of shame

Moultrie Middle in Mount Pleasant is one of the schools that gave out Roo cups.

Principal Anna Dassing said when she was presented with the idea, she didn't give it a second thought. A lot of kids carry Roo cups. They're clear, so they are allowed — but kids can only put water in them. Dassing, whose own child has one of these cups, says there was no intention to give these kids a sugar high. Wellness teaching, she points out, is a big priority at Moultrie.

“We really encourage kids to be healthy,” Dassing says. “We're always telling them there are consequences they should think about. Do you really want those chocolate chip cookies, or carrots and hummus?”

Doesn't sound like much of a choice, but it's good advice.

Dassing notes that kids could fill their Roo cups with lemonade, sugar-free slushies or diet drinks. But Louis Yuhasz, the founder and CEO of Louie's Kids — a program that fights childhood obesity — says that doesn't cut it.

He says that schools should not reward kids with sodas, seeing as how sugar consumption is the biggest culprit in childhood obesity. Fair point.

“It's one of those things that doesn't make a lot of sense,” Yuhasz says.

Just say no, if you want

Dassing stopped serving sweet tea in the school's cafeteria because it had too much sugar, and she may cut out chocolate milk. Remove the temptation, you know. She concedes the cups are controversial and has offered to talk with any parent who has concerns. If she had it to do over, she's not sure she would have agreed to this. But folks, this isn't Sodagate. There was no bad intention here. If the schools did anything wrong, it was not realizing some parents would object. Next time they could send home permission slips.

Bottom line, if you don't want your kids to have a Roo cup, take it away. Let them eat carrot sticks.

Parents have a right, and a responsibility, to make sure their kids are eating healthy. It is important, but when it gets down to arguing over Icees, it sure isn't much fun. Because apparently the days of “Have a Coke and a smile” are long gone.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.