Children have been punished for not being able to pay for their school lunches for years now. Being singled out, forced to do chores, or not being able to get lunch at all – this is a reality for thousands of students across the country who cannot afford their school lunch.
Now, legislation was introduced in April to ban schools from singling out these children. While it’s not through the woods yet, it is one step closer to being a reality – and helping children everywhere.
The entire goal of this legislation, which passed in the U.S. Senate last week while attached to a larger funding bill, is to prevent and eliminate children being aware and singled out by school officials because their families cannot afford school lunches.
This has been big news in recent years, with some schools taking it pretty far. Some districts will “stamp” a student’s hand who has not paid for their meals, force them to do extra chores, or offering an “alternative” meal, like a cold cheese sandwich instead of a hot lunch.
Many times, this will be the only hot lunch that these children get.
According to a report in 2014, almost half of all school districts in the US today use some sort of “lunch shaming” on children to coerce parents into paying the bill.
If placed into effect, this would mean that children not only would be punished for their family’s inability or unwillingness to pay for their school lunches, but they wouldn’t even be aware of it.
Schools would only be allowed to discuss payment with the parents. Children would not be involved at all, which can save a lot of embarrassment for them.
This legislation would cover the entire US, but several other places already have similar laws in effect.
Maine signed a similar bill into law earlier this year, which prevents any school in the entire state to shame or identify students who cannot afford their lunches. These students also cannot be refused a meal, despite their inability to pay.
Denver, Colorado passed legislation similar to this as well, but their results have been mixed. Lunch debt went from $13,000 to a staggering $350,000 in just a single year, which is what those opposed to this change are most scared of.
School systems and their budgets are already tight – adding this expense could be disastrous. But there are also social implications to the stigma these children are facing, which are very real, and could be very harmful.