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New California law bans school lunch debt shaming

California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - J&J A-OK, Tanden in Trouble California law will send 0 direct payments to low-income residents Democrats look to improve outreach to Asian and Latino communities MORE (D) has signed into law a measure that guarantees students will receive state-funded lunches regardless of whether their parents or guardians have unpaid meal fees.

The bill, which was spearheaded by state Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D), prohibits so-called lunch shaming, a practice in which institutions deny students with unpaid fees a meal of their choice. It also seeks to ensure that a student "is not shamed or treated differently from other pupils" for having unpaid lunch debts. 

"Creating a 'California for All' means ensuring schools are inclusive, accepting, and welcoming of all kids," Newsom said in a statement before crediting Napa County elementary school student Ryan Kyote for bringing national attention to the issue. 

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Kyote, a student at West Park Elementary School, gained widespread acclaim earlier this year after using his allowance money to pay off school lunch debts for his entire third grade class. 

"He showed how at many schools across the country, students whose parents are not able to pay for their lunch are given a cheaper, 'alternative' lunch that causes them to stick out from their peers," Newsom said, thanking him "for his empathy and his courage in bringing awareness to this important issue."

The law amends the Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act of 2017 by requiring school districts, charter schools and education agencies to invalidate policies that ask officials to give alternative meals to students with unpaid fees. 

Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarMehdi Hasan gets MSNBC Sunday prime-time show Six ways to visualize a divided America Jamaal Bowman's mother dies of COVID-19: 'I share her legacy with all of you' MORE (D-Minn.) in June introduced the No Shame at School Act, which would bar any kind of identification of students who cannot pay for lunch at school. 

“Across this country, students whose families are struggling to afford school meals are being singled out and humiliated at lunchtime,” Omar said at the time. “These students are subjected to various shaming practices at schools. Some students have been literally branded with stamps.”