A House Democrat introduced legislation last week that would ban schools from shaming students who fall behind in their school lunch accounts.
Current federal law already requires school cafeterias to keep serving students who fall behind on their school lunch payments. But some schools have been known to take steps to shame those students, including by throwing their lunches away once they're served, or making them do chores to make up for their failure to pay.
The No Shame, No Blame Act from Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., would prevent schools from taking those steps, and would require all discussions about school lunch payments to be held between the school and parents or guardians, not the students themselves.
"In the greatest food producing nation in the world, no child should ever be punished or denied a healthy and nutritious meal because of their parent's or guardian's inability to pay," Nolan said in a statement late last week when he introduced the bill. "And yet, anecdotal evidence and news reports from all around the country indicate that the despicable practice of lunch shaming is still a very real problem in many schools."
"[S]tigmatizing students who don't have the means or ability to pay for their meals at school is inexcusable," he said. "And the fact that shaming can result in students going hungry — affecting their ability to learn — and being punished for things that are out of their control, is unacceptable. This shameful practice needs to end."
Under Nolan's bill, schools would have to publish their policy each year on how they collect school lunch debts, and what happens when a student has insufficient funds to buy food.
Schools that violate the new rules against shaming students would run the risk of being named and shamed by a public listing put out by the secretary of education.