Massena school board votes to ban meal shaming
By ANDY GARDNER
MASSENA -- The Board of Education on Thursday voted to ban meal shaming for students with unpaid lunch debts.
Superintendent Pat Brady said all schools statewide are now legally required to make the change to their lunch charge policies."The law requires districts to revise their plan to ensure students with unpaid meal charges are not shamed or treated differently than those without unpaid meal charges,” he said. "Most schools in the region are in the process of passing a similar policy."
He said the policy bans their old practice of providing an alternative meal “within nutritional guidelines” when a student’s debt hit a certain level.
“No students were turned away from getting a meal or forced to do chores or any other acts,” he said, adding that some districts elsewhere would require students to wear a wristband or do chores when they acquired too much meal debt.
He said much of their outstanding lunch debt did not come from students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.
"Much of the debt that was accrued over time ... doesn't come from those families who can least afford it,” Brady said. "These weren't ones who were eligible ... and that's where that gap came from.”
"Three years ago, our debt was $23,000 from unpaid meals. We got it down to about [$13,000], and then we had to wipe it off the books because you can't carry it from one year to the next,” he said.