Bullied Child Goes Home Crying After School Puts Sticker on His Chest About Low Lunch Balance

school-lunch-stickerSchool lunches have been a fairly hot topic lately, and bullying is always a topic that can quickly enrage people.  So when you mix the two, it can really become a volatile situation.

Well, that’s what happened in Stewartville, Minnesota when a child (and several other students) were more or less “branded” with a sticker stating that their school lunch balance had fallen below a certain level.  After all, what could go wrong with an elementary school student walking around for half of the day with a sticker on him publicly displaying a private matter?

If you guessed the kid went home crying because he felt the staff and other students were picking on him, then you would be correct.

But it’s okay, because the school says the student doesn’t have to accept the sticker.

I’m sorry, but that’s no excuse.

If the students don’t have to accept the sticker, then why even have it as an option?  Who in their right mind thought this would be a good idea to start with?

And don’t give me this nonsense that it’s “up to the student.”  The adults at this school should know better than to put a decision such as this in the hands of small children.  

I understand wanting to inform parents that their child’s lunch account is below a certain level, I really do.  But it’s 2014.  You’re telling me with email, texts and cell phones that there’s not a better way to do this?

Here’s an idea: Give the student a sealed piece of paper to give to his or her parents.

Yes, it’s really that simple.

Now, if the school has emailed, called, texted and sent a private letter to the parent’s home about this issue, and nothing had yet to be done, then I could see having to explore other options.  Though I can’t see many parents blatantly ignoring all forms of communication for something that pertains to their child.

And under no circumstances should “branding” the child with a sticker displaying private information be an option – period.

But this isn’t the only pathetic news regarding school lunches from the state of Minnesota.  Many Minnesota schools deny lunches to students who can’t pay for them.  In some schools, students have even had their lunches taken from them and thrown in the trash just because their lunch accounts showed a deficit.

According to the Star Tribune:

“Some school districts send students home with a verbal warning for their parents or a hand stamp visible to all that says “LUNCH” or “MONEY.” Others hand children a bread-and-butter sandwich and carton of milk in lieu of a hot lunch.”

Because nothing screams “let’s single students out!” quite like giving them a bread-and-butter sandwich with milk while other students have access to a regular meal.

While I agree that this falls on the parents to comply with certain rules, and I know not all parents are always responsible, can we at least agree that the public embarrassment of children in front of their peers isn’t acceptable?

According to Legal Aid, which did a poll about Minnesota school lunches, 46 Minnesota school districts said that they immediately or eventually refuse to give students lunches who have insufficient funds in their lunch accounts. More than half the districts in the state, 166 schools in total, provide some form of alternative meal, often something like a cold cheese sandwich, once funds run out. Another 96 school districts provide a normal lunch regardless of whether or not the student has funds in their account.

It’s really hard for me to grasp the fact that as a modern society we’re still having the issue of students in our public schools going without regular meals.  And no, “alternative meals” aren’t acceptable either.  Telling a student, “Sorry, you’re too poor to eat warm food, so we’re going to give you a butter sandwich with milk” is not a decent alternative.

School is difficult enough for a lot of students, especially those who live in poverty at home, so adding more difficulty to it doesn’t make any sense to me at all.

And again, while I know in some of these instances the parents are at fault, it’s the students who are the ones being embarrassed at school.

So while I know we can’t agree on much in this country, can we at least all get on the same page in supporting the policy that no matter what, we’re not embarrassing students in school because of something they have absolutely no control over?  This is absolutely ridiculous and it needs to stop.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.

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