New York’s new ‘meal shaming’ law will cost Ogdensburg schools money, manager says
Sunday, June 10, 2018 - 8:40 am

By THOMAS LUCKIE III

OGDENSBURG – The Ogdensburg City School District Board of Education approved a revised policy regarding “meal shaming” of students at Monday’s meeting.

The policy, which was revised in accordance with Section 908 of New York State Education Law, mandates that a student whose parent or guardian has unpaid meal charges is not “shamed” or treated any differently than a student whose parent or guardian does not have unpaid meal charges.

District School Lunch Manager Brian Mitchell had spoken on the matter during earlier discussion and review of the policy at a meeting Wednesday, May 16.

“This is a totally unfunded mandate that is definitely going to hurt the district,” Mitchell said.

According to Mitchell, students who go through the lunch line without money next school year cannot be given an alternate lunch, told that they owe money in line, or pulled aside to be told that they owe money, while still being provided with a standard lunch.

While the district has managed to reduce the amount of owed meals from approximately $18,000 three years ago to around $4,800 as of the May meeting through a change in charge policy, Mitchell anticipates that the newly revised policy will result in less incentive for parents and guardians to pay for meals owed.

“If they do owe money, we can stop the à la carte items like chips and drinks,” Mitchell said, while also adding that it’s a policy required by the state and “a tough one.”

Before the board voted to approve the policy on Monday, Board of Education Vice President Michael Myers equated the policy to “basically a tax” after questioning the state’s decision to dictate how the district collects owed lunch money that is not paid by parents or guardians. Myers and board member James King voted against the policy that ultimately passed by a vote of 6-2.

The policy also allows for school district administration to potentially qualify a student for free or reduced lunch if they accumulate five or more unpaid meal charges and attempts to contact a parent or guardian are unsuccessful.

Student lunch prices will remain unchanged for the 2018-19 school year and are currently set at $2.10 for grades K-6 and $2.30 for grades 7-12, while reduced price lunches remain 25 cents.