Lunch shaming: Punishing children for the failures of adults

Note: I sent this letter to the MCCSC School Board.

School Board members,

Thank you for seeking public input on the lunch debt policy, which has been derided as “lunch shaming” over the last few weeks.

I was stunned that a sitting school board member would say that embarrassing a child in front of his peers is a way to teach the child and his parents a lesson about responsibility. I thought this was exaggerated or even made up when I saw it on Facebook, but sadly I was wrong. It is a cruel statement. The student certainly will not get the lesson, especially if he is in lower grades. All he knows is that he is being embarrassed in front of his classmates. Throwing the food away seems like it is done out of spite, because the food cannot be given to anyone else. Why not allow the child to eat it?

While I understand objections that a restaurant would not operate this way, we are not dealing with adults. We are dealing with children who do not have any control over their parents’ failure to pay the bill – whether it is done out of irresponsibility, caused by a family emergency, or due to any number of other factors.

I do not understand why the balance is checked at the end of the line, after the child already has a hot meal. It would be far less wasteful to check the balance at the front of the line. (This is how my elementary school operated in the 1980’s.) This would prevent the practice of taking away a lunch that the child already has and would prevent food from being wasted. The child could be given an alternate lunch immediately, instead of teased with the hot lunch.

Obviously, the debt is a major problem and parents need to be responsible in ensuring their children are fed. But the way this is being done needs to be reformed. Checking the balance at the beginning of the line is an obvious way to mitigate the embarrassment. Having a lot more compassion on the School Board is another.

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