The new policy passed by the Rhode Island District Schools has created outrage among parents. The schools have decided to serve jelly sandwiches to students whose lunch money is due.
Schools provide grounds for personal development and play a major role in their life. A good school environment is vital in shaping a kid and his values. It enhances the child's abilities and supports him or her through their difficulties. However, a school district's recent action has raised concerns as parents and authorities fear it might negatively impact the kids and their well being at school.
According to NBC news, the Rhode Island school district has issued a notice saying that students who owe money on their lunch accounts will no longer be served hot lunch, instead will be served sunflower butter and jelly sandwiches. "If money is owed on a paid, free, or reduced lunch account a sun butter and jelly sandwich will be given as the lunch choice until the balance owed is paid in full or a payment plan is set up," said the district through a Facebook post.
Warwick Public schools with more than 9,000 students from Kindergarten to high school also informed that the sandwich will be served with the vegetable of the day, fruit and milk. They added that the rule will come into effect on May 13. According to state law, all public schools in Rhode Island should provide lunches to all students and 70 percent of schools provide lunches for free or at a reduced price based on the family income.
The announcement from the school district has raised outraged parents who fear that the denial of lunches to some students would lead to "lunch shaming" and bullying. They also believe that the law would bring to light the economic welfare of students which may negatively impact them. The Facebook post by the district has received more than 900 comments leading to heated debates within the social media platform itself.
"This is absolutely awful. Our schools shouldn't be in the business of shaming children," one person wrote beneath the Facebook announcement. "I know as parents this is our responsibility but why to take it out on kids if parents are struggling," one woman wrote on the district page. Some parents who commented on the post said that they had received warning emails from the school saying that they owed few cents more as their child had put extra items on their lunch tray that was not included in the meal plan.
However, the school authorities defended their new law. According to NBC, Warwick School Committee chairwoman Karen Bachus said that she saw no problems with the new law as many students anyways opt for the butter and jelly sandwich which is part of the regular lunch menu. "Before we used to give a cheese sandwich which did single them out, but now we've gone with an on-the-menu meal." So what's wrong with that?" said Bachus to NBC news. She informed that the new policy was implemented as the school owed outstanding lunch dues of more than $78,000.
"We have sent out letters and certified letters to every family. All they have to do is contact us to try to work it out," said Bachus.
However, according to the non-profit School Nutrition Association, this situation is not unique to Warwick. The association stated that more than 75 percent of schools had pending lunch dues at the end of the 2016/2017 school year. They also found that about 40 percent of schools reported the increase in the number of students with inadequate funds to pay for lunch during the same year. They found that these schools were able to help such parents and students by reminding about their low balances, allowing them to pay online and also accepting donations from charities.
Meanwhile, Warwick Public Schools have invited criticisms with its refusal of donations worth $4,000 offered by a local restaurant owner, Angelica Penta who also has a son attending one of the schools in the district. Penta who raised money by setting up a donation jar at her restaurant took to Facebook saying "I have met with Warwick twice and the second time I left in tears after they refused to take a $4,000 check." In response to the claim, the school said in a statement that it didn't want to be responsible for allotting which students the money benefited. They also added that they are working with attorneys to "ensure that we accept donations in compliance with the law and that the donations are applied in an equitable manner."