Oliver Twist or Lunch Shaming Is Wrong

It seems that many school cafeterias have turned into a scene from Oliver Twist with students with empty school lunch accounts wanting “more”…and being, for lack of a better word…bullied by teachers and staff for their parents’ shortcomings. It reminds me of a long ago principal giving my 5 and 7 year old daughters detention for being late for school. He was more than a little miffed when I arrived with them to serve the detention. He didn’t understand that since they didn’t drive it was not their fault for being late…but mine. Shaming children because their parents couldn’t or didn’t or weren’t bothered to fund their lunch accounts is just wrong. Last I knew elementary aged children aren’t able to work or to otherwise earn their own money. Thankfully New Mexico’s legislature has realized this and passed The Hunger Free Students’ Bill of Rights.

The law prevents students with insufficient lunch funds or cash from being stamped, having their food thrown out, being turned into janitors, or otherwise being shamed for not being able to purchase their lunch. Not only does being singled out in this way leave the children prone to further bullying from their peers but it also leaves them hungry and distracted for the balance of the school day. Punishing a child for their parent’s actions or lack of action cannot solve a problem that they didn’t create. The bill additionally provides for counselors to “work with parents to pay their debts or sign up for federal meal assistance.”