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Lunch Shaming: Bullying Served Up by Our Educators
In the age of anti-bullying and anti-shaming campaigns throughout our schools, is it really acceptable when the schools themselves are doing the shaming and bullying?
A child goes to the lunch room at school and is served a meal for which they cannot pay, as they have no money on their account. In front of the other students, the school staff takes the meal away and throws it in the trash humiliating the child.
Another child is in the same situation, but instead of going without food, the school staff gives them the “cannot pay” special, a cheese sandwich, two pieces of bread and a slice of cheese. The child is still humiliated.
In some cases, the child is forced to wear a sticker that says, “I need lunch money.”
In what universe is this OK? A child does not have any control of their ability to pay for their school lunch. They are in school, to learn and grow to become productive citizens in a supposedly nurturing environment. They are not in school to be shamed and humiliated by the very system that is supposed to be teaching them.
No one will disagree that parents neglecting to pay for lunches and running up losses for the schools, that are constantly in a budget crunch, is not an important issue. In one school district alone in Virginia, the debt built up from unpaid school lunches being served, was over $25,000. Multiply that by the countless school systems across the country and the debt is a big deal.
The issue is leaving the children, that have no control over the situation, out of the equation. States, and even the federal government, have started to wake up to the stupidity of allowing such practices to continue.
Starting with New Mexico in 2017, some states are moving forward with legislation to end lunch shaming. In May 2017, the Anti-Lunch Shaming Act of 2017 was introduced in Congress, but as of this writing was still in committee. It’s a no brainer, so why is it still not passed? Congress.
Fortunately, actions across the country are being taken in different forms, to help schools with the issue. Concerned citizens and businesses are contributing money to their local school systems to help reduce or pay off the school lunch debts, so the schools are not out for continuing to serve the lunches.
School systems are increasing their efforts to connect with the parents responsible for the lunch payments, setting up automated billing, payment plans, helping parents apply for federal aid for the lunches and establishing share tables (where certain whole or packaged foods that one child does not want can be picked up by another without facing any stigma).
This isn’t rocket science. The parents owe for the lunches, so do a better job of connecting with them or getting financial help for them when they need it. Start and promote fundraisers for those that cannot pay, but do not humiliate a child who is there to learn, for something they are not responsible for. What is that teaching them?
A school cafeteria worker has quit over what she considers a "lunch shaming" policy in a Pennsylvania school district.