Cracking Down on 'Lunch Shaming' Comes with a Cost for Schools
Illinois governor signs law to end ‘lunch-shaming’ policies at schools
A new law in Illinois will now put an end to practices known as ‘lunch shaming’ at schools. SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A new law in Illinois will now put an end to practices known as ‘lunch shaming’ at schools. Lunch shaming has become known as situations where school cafeteria employees take away a child’s lunch tray because they don’t have enough money in their account, the schools serves a cheap sandwich when a student can’t afford lunch or when the school sends the student home with conspicuous debt reminders like hand stamps or wristbands. The lunch shaming polices have earned national attention, even pushing celebrities like T.I. to stand up for the students. Actor and rapper T.I. paid for a Florida girl’s lunch for the year after she was embarrassed by a school employee for being short 15 cents. Attorney Kristen Clarke with the Washington, D.C.-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law was so moved by the story that she opened a GoFundMe account for students and their families who could not afford school lunch. Along with the GoFundMe account, The Lawyers’ Committee sent a formal letter to the Volusia School District and University High School in Florida asking them to revise their policies to ensure that no student goes hungry in the future. Now, Illinois lawmakers are stepping up to make sure students don’t go hungry. Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has signed SB 2428 into law, making it effective immediately. The new law states that every school will be required to provide a meal for every student that requests one. If a student can’t afford the lunch, the school can contact the parents but the school will not be allowed to throw away the meal, force the students to wear a wristband or call them out in any way.
Mother upset about ‘lunch shaming’ at Lebanon schools
LEBANON – A Lebanon mother is upset after she says her kids were denied breakfast and “Lunch shamed” because they didn’t have enough money on their account. Shaina Lawson says her 2nd and 5th grade daughters came home crying on Thursday from Harney Elementary School after she says the cafeteria worker denied them breakfast. “You should never take food away from an innocent child,” Lawson said. Lawson didn’t put more money on their accounts in time and says their food was taken away from them in front of everyone. “The lady took their food from them in front of everyone in the lunch room and told them because they didn’t have money on there that they were not allowed to eat,” Lawson said. “There were kids snickering in the back of the line, made them feel very uncomfortable. I can only imagine how they were feeling.” While students are not allowed to buy anything when there’s no money on their account, Lebanon Community Schools says students have an alternate menu option available to them. When a student’s balance is low, the schools notifies the parents twice a week. Schools send home a letter explaining the process of applying for free or reduced price meals when a student’s balance goes in the negatives. “But before we could put money on there, they decided it was ok to snatch away my kids breakfast both of them in front of everyone,” Lawson said. Some schools in Central Indiana, like the Greenfield Central Community School Corporation, have changed their policies to prevent what’s called “Lunch shaming.” Lebanon Community Schools says they are reviewing their policies and procedures to ensure students and families are being served and welcome the opportunity to assist families with questions regarding food services and payment.
April 7, 2017.What is “Lunch shaming?” It happens when a child can’t pay a school lunch bill. In Alabama, a child short on funds was stamped on the arm with “I Need Lunch Money.” In some schools, children are forced to clean cafeteria tables in front of their peers to pay the debt. In what its supporters say is the first such legislation in the country, New Mexico has outlawed shaming children whose parents are behind on school lunch payments. New Mexico is not alone in dealing with school meal debt. According to the School Nutrition Association, over three-quarters of school districts had uncollected debt on their books at the end of the last school year. Once debt is deemed uncollectable, school nutrition departments must write it off, but they may not offset the loss with federal dollars. The New Mexico law will still allow schools to penalize students with steps such as withholding a student’s transcript or revoking older students’ parking passes. Some school employees reach into their own pockets to pay for meals. Sharon Schaefer, a former chef at a high school in Omaha, said one cashier asked to be removed from her position because of the school’s “No money, no meal” policy. Private individuals have sometimes paid off the entire outstanding balance at local schools, and last December, a single tweet inspired hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations around the country. “I don’t think the main intention of the school meal debt policies is to humiliate,” said Ms. Ramo of New Mexico Appleseed, who said the group worked closely with school nutrition departments in drafting the bill. “Mostly, school nutrition directors are trying to balance their budgets and they see this is a necessary but effective evil.”