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MCCSC To Reconsider Controversial ‘Lunch Shaming’ Policy

  • testimony

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    Photo: Barbara Brosher

    All members of the public who spoke during Tuesday's meeting were against the lunch debt policy.

  • Celestina

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    Photo: Barbara Brosher

    Celestina Garcia hugs people in the crowd after telling the board how "lunch shaming" impacted her.

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    Photo: Barbara Brosher

    MCCSC Superintendent Judy DeMuth says schools have been put in a tough position because of the new federal requirements.

The Monroe County Community School Corporation will revisit its controversial lunch debt policy after hearing solely opposition from the community during its meeting Tuesday night.

The crowd of parents, teachers and former school board members spilled into the hallway as people turned out in droves to protest what they’ve deemed “lunch shaming.”

The board adopted a policy last month that stipulates students who have a negative balance on their lunch accounts can receive three hot meals before they’re given an alternative meal of a peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwich. If a student makes it through the line but is at the limit, the hot meal is taken away; wrapped items are saved and unwrapped items are trashed or composted.

The USDA requires all public schools to put such policies into writing by July 1.

MCCSC’s Director of Business Operations John Kenny says the corporation is working to collect more donations and find ways to avoid giving alternate meals to students. But, new federal policy stipulates schools must pay any lunch debt with money from the general fund each year.

“Our priority is to make sure all children are fed, all children will be fed as they will receive an alternative meal if they have already charged three meals and don’t have money,” Kenny says.

Celestina Garcia says she knows the harmful psychological effects such policies can have on kids because she’s received alternate meals.

“It is a feeling of utter humiliation as you walk back to your seat,” Garcia says through tears. “And while it may be true that people are staring, you feel as though everybody is looking at you.”

Garcia and others who spoke out at the meeting urged the board to stop handing out alternate meals, which they argue penalize children for something beyond their control. Some went as far to call the policy a form of bullying.

Cornelius Wright also spoke in opposition to the policy. He criticized comments made by School Board President Martha Street during a meeting at Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard last week. At the time, she said the district’s lunch debt policy “becomes a learning experience” for parents on how to spend their money.

Wright says his daughter is a single mother who struggles to pay her bills and called Street’s comments irresponsible.

“[My daughter] doesn’t buy luxury items and she’s not a drug addict,” Wright says. “Those type of representations are not only irresponsible, they are downright cruel.”

 

After hearing more than an hour of emotional testimony, some board members also expressed their desire to revise the lunch debt policy. Superintendent Judy DeMuth announced the corporation will reconsider its position.

“I think it would be appropriate for me to take all of the input that I’ve received and come back to you with a modification that I could recommend,” DeMuth says.

DeMuth plans to present a new proposal to the board next month.

MCCSC has more than $11,000 in lunch debt from the past academic year. Some of the debt will be covered by donations, leaving just over $4,000 for the school to pay back for the year.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

  • Bob Eckert

    Scar a child psychologically for life on a debt of $4000? Welcome to the age of Trump. Maybe the point is to get the child to avoid school and learning altogether. SHAME ON YOU CRETINS.

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