Service of a NJ School District Punishing Kids for Unpaid Lunch Bills

October 31st, 2019

Categories: Deprivation, Food, Punishment, School, School Lunch, Tradition

Photo: columbustelegram.com

What is it about school systems and children’s lunches that brings out the worst in some? In May, 2017 I wrote “Service of Humiliating, Harmful Strategies to Get Paid: Lunch Shaming,” exposing administrators in Canonsburg, Pa. who humiliated children whose parents hadn’t paid their lunch fees, not letting the kids eat. Earlier, in a different post, I suggested the NYC school system pay for breakfast and lunch for kids who couldn’t afford it and lower their spending on laptops from the Rolls Royce version they had in mind to a serviceable but cheaper model.

Photo: northersey.com

Recently Ella Torres wrote about a Cherry Hill “New Jersey school district [that] is banning students with school lunch debt from attending extracurricular activities, including prom and field trips” or from buying a yearbook. The ABC news journalist reported “Middle school students who owe $75 or more in school lunch fees will face the same punishment, while elementary school students will be barred from participating in after-school events and attending class trips.”

Torres quoted a grandparent who said: “It is an elitist assumption on the part of this school board that parents are not paying a bill because they don’t want to.”

A senior asked the board ” ‘What are colleges gonna think?’ noting how important extracurricular activities are on applications.”

According to Torres, NJ.com reported that meal debt in the district was over $14,000, counting students of all ages owing $10 or more.

At least the district still feeds kids who owe lunch money.

Photo: impactteachers.com

The school superintendent, Dr. Joseph Meloche, said: “Money is certainly something that we have to deal with. That’s our world, but that’s not the most important thing that we’re addressing in terms of the policy and the work that’s being done. It’s about supporting children and supporting families … sometimes the right thing is not the easy thing to do.”

I haven’t changed my mind: Depriving or punishing kids over issues of food is atrocious. Do you agree? Prom, the yearbook, extracurricular activities and school trips are big deals for kids. Will deprivation cover the debt? Is this an appropriate way to teach kids a lesson–making them pressure their parents to pay up when it’s the school that should be doing so?  Are there jobs kids–especially the young ones–can do to pay off some of the debt? How do other districts handle it–taxes or fundraisers?

Photo: tes.com

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4 Responses to “Service of a NJ School District Punishing Kids for Unpaid Lunch Bills”

  1. ASK Said:

    I have to wonder why parents aren’t paying…NJ is a wealthy state compared to the other 49, and Cherry Hill has a high per capita income relative to other NJ communities. It isn’t Newark or Paterson…

  2. Martha Takayama Said:

    There is no room for discussion . What you state, “Depriving or punishing kids over issues of food is atrocious. Prom, the yearbook, extracurricular activities and school trips are big deals for kids” and are insignificant compared to assuring basic nutrition, and teaching respect for those who are less fortunate.

    In fact many of the excursion involve students engaging in all sorts of aggressive projects to come up with the necessary funds. Whether or not deprivation covers the debt is irrelevant. It cannot cover the nutritional, emotional and socio-political damage it engenders.

    You wrote “Is this an appropriate way to teach kids a lesson–making them pressure their parents to pay up when it’s the school that should be doing so?” Schools ought to be able to manage the costs. If not there are serious problems with those who allocate or determine the administration of the budgets. What kind of values are schools that engage in these feudal and revolting practices?

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:

    ASK,

    So many people have psychological issues about food that start in childhood and impact their lives. I have my father to thank that I ducked that one. I was a fat kid but he didn’t want any discussion about my weight and sure ’nuff as an adult I’ve not had a weight problem to date.

    I don’t think a school system has a right to add to guilt or anxiety over meals. Children should not have to worry about a basic thing like a lunch. A community –especially a fortunate one that has proms and extracurricular activities– must figure out a way to handle this without involving the children. There are no lessons for them to learn: Their parents, maybe.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    I remember our lower school visits to the Fulton Fish Market in NYC and to Breyers Ice Cream. I brought home a squid from the former. I don’t think my mother cooked it because she’d not before confronted one in the kitchen nevertheless, had I been excluded from the trip it would have been terrible.

    It almost seems that the administrators and school boards that come up with these schemes either don’t have children, don’t know any or can’t remember what it was like to be one. They should be replaced.

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