Lawmakers unveil bill to ban school lunch shaming
A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to ban schools from publicly shaming students who can’t afford to pay for lunch.
Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.), along with Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), introduced the Anti-Lunch Shaming Act in the House and Senate on Monday.
The legislation prohibits schools from singling out children who have outstanding school lunch balances or who were short on lunch money that day. The legislation would prohibit punishments like a wristband or hand stamp or forcing students to do extra chores.
“No student should be humiliated in front of their peers because their parents can’t afford to pay for a meal,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “It is shocking and shameful that this happens to hungry children, but nearly half of all school districts use some form of lunch shaming.”
New Mexico recently became the first state to outlaw school lunch shaming.
The legislation aims to streamline the process for applying for free and reduced lunch by making clear that Congress expects schools to give applications to families in need, coordinate with other programs to ensure that homeless and foster children are enrolled for free meals and set up online systems to make paying for meals easier for parents.
“Children who have no ability to pay their debts shouldn’t be shamed, punished at school or even go hungry because their parents can’t pay their school meal bills,” Udall said in a statement.
“Shaming students or requiring extra chores from kids who need help paying for lunch is inexcusable — not only does it stigmatize our most vulnerable children, it takes away from time they can be spending on schoolwork or with their peers.”