You've heard the stories of children who don't have lunch money receiving a stamp on their arms or hands for the entire school to see. Some schools have even forced kids to do chores to pay off their lunch debts, or thrown hot meals in the trash when kids don't have enough money. It's called lunch shaming, and it's a phenomenon sweeping schools across the country, and enraging parents and anti-hunger activists in the process.
Now, The New York Times reports that New Mexico will become the first state to outlaw school lunch shaming. It's okay; I'll hold for applause.
Governor Susana Martinez signed the Hunger-Free Students' Bill of Rights this past Thursday, essentially flipping the script on how public and private schools must handle the situation when kids don't have funds for meals. Now, instead of practicing what many view as cruel measures intended to embarrass students, administrators are directed to work with parents to pay their debts, or encourage them to sign up for federal assistance.
This doesn't solve the crisis of unpaid lunch debt facing schools nationwide. The Times reports that three-quarters of school districts have uncollected funds on their books by year's end. But I can't imagine that shaming kids is the way to put an end to this, and it's about time schools redirected their efforts toward parents and not children.
Meanwhile, no word on whether another law will soon be introduced to outlaw shaming kids for what they put in their lunches packed from home. In one recent case, a teacher sent a letter home when a kid brought a slice of birthday cake in her lunch.
But here's hoping New Mexico's anti-lunch shaming measure inspires more states to impose similar measures ASAP!
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and soon-to-be mom of 4. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.