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Posted on: June 28, 2019 at 10:07 am
Last updated: August 3, 2019 at 12:50 pm

They call it policy, but they could be more subtle with implementation. Lunch-shaming little kids could leave scars on their psyches, especially since they have no control over these situations. 

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Six-year-old Anya Howard from Indiana went to school a happy, jumpy kid on Friday, May 17. She had no idea she’d become a laughing stock by noon due to insufficient funds in her lunch account [1]. The Southwest Elementary student had been asked to return her lunch tray by a cafeteria aide and proceed to the back of the line. She was to be given a meager PB&J sandwich and a box of milk instead. 

Speaking to Wish TV News 8, Anya said the experience had made her feel sad [2].

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When I went to do my number, they told me that I needed to give my food back to Miss Jenny,” the little girl said.

The miserly alternate lunch hadn’t really bothered Anya. She was more traumatized by the embarrassing walk to the back of the line with a fellow peer. About 20 other students stared, pointed, and laughed. Some of the kids couldn’t resist the urge to openly tease Anya and the other child about their inability to afford a hot lunch. 

Anya’s family calls out the school

Dwight Howard, Anya’s grandfather was outraged by the embarrassment his granddaughter experienced. Speaking to News 8, he said it was totally unnecessary of the school to give the girl a tray and make her walk back shamefully to return it. He also insisted that the school hadn’t informed the family of the deficient lunch account prior to Friday. 

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When she was talking to me about it, she was more than sad,” he said. “I mean, that’s embarrassing for a little 6-year-old. They waited until there was a dime left, denied her the opportunity to eat the lunch that she had [been served and tried to pay for] and then she had to go to the end of the line to wait for a PB&J,” Dwight said.

The girl’s grandfather was of the conviction that the walk of shame was totally wrong. A school, especially not one with kindergarteners, should not put little children through such humiliation if their parents fail to comply with rules. Altering families before-hand about fund-deficient accounts would be more a more reasonable approach. 

Statements from the authorities

According to Dr. Kent Dekoninck, Superintendent of the Greenwood Schools Community, families are informed when the funds in the children’s accounts hit a low of $5.

“It is not an uncommon occurrence for multiple students to be served the alternate lunch on any given day,” he said in an email to News 8. “Any time this happens, our staff looks to handle all of these as discreetly as possible… We do allow elementary students to charge two hot meals before receiving the alternate meal.”

However, the school administrators tightened their policies earlier that week by cutting out the extra two meals a child is entitled to before they receive an alternate meal. The policy was earlier set into implementation as of Monday and Anya’s family was notified on Friday after their child had been sent to the back of the line. A small note attached by the school to the back of the payment slip given to Anya read: 

Starting Monday 5/13/2019 we are no longer allowing any Café accounts to go into the negative. If there is not enough money in your child’s account to cover the entire meal, they will be receiving a peanut butter sandwich and a milk.”

Calls and emails sent to the school by News 8 have since not been returned. Since the girl’s family didn’t lay a formal complaint with the school authority, Dr. Kent refused to speak on that particular case and only made a general address.

Gentler approaches should be devised for the children’s sakes

Recall that last month as well, a British mom-of-six called out a school for serving her two children bread and butter sandwiches and apples for lunch. She apparently owed £17.60 ($23) in debt of lunch fees, and according to her, she wasn’t informed about his debt prior to that day. Her two children were singled out before all the other kids and sent to a separate area to have their B&B sandwich lunch, which their mother likened to the dumplings Oliver Twist had begged for in the classic novel.

Schools have a right to set policies, no argument about that, but they’ll have to be more considerate of the children’s feelings in executing these rules. Putting children through “walks of shame” is definitely out of the question. Also, if the administration truly didn’t inform these families of the deficient accounts prior to the days of these incidents, then they are completely at fault. 

  1. Takeda-Morrison Marsha. Six-Year-Old Made to Do the ‘Walk of Shame’ Over Not Being Able to Pay for $2.25 Lunch. Cafe Mom. https://thestir.cafemom.com/parenting_news/219598/kindergartner-lunch-shamed-not-enough-money-account/296316/_they_waited_until_there_was_a_dime_left_denied_her_the_opportunity_to_eat_the_lunch_that_she_had_been_served_and_tried_to_pay_for_and_then_she_had_to/4. Retrieved 26/06/19
  2. Deng, Julia. Greenwood kindergartner ‘lunch shamed,’ family calls for school policy change. Wish TV. https://www.wishtv.com/news/local-news/greenwood-kindergartner-lunch-shamed-family-calls-for-school-policy-change/2015651788. Retrieved 26/06/19
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