Kids have enough on their metaphorical plates without having to worry about lunchtime too. Reports of bullying are paling into insignificance after school policies are shaming kids whose parents have lower incomes. That was the case for 6-year-old Anya Howard.
Anya and a friend had been served their lunches and were trying to pay. However, they were told their accounts did not have enough credit in them. They were forced to give up their lunches and walk to the back of the line. At the end of lunchtime, they would be given a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
“They were laughing at us,” Anya said of her classmates.
“When she was talking to me about it, she was more than ‘sad,’” her grandfather Dwight Howard said. “I mean, that’s embarrassing for a little 6-year-old.”
Schools are supposed to notify parents when their child’s account dips below $5, but this hadn’t happened in Anya’s case.
“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,” he said.
But Kent DeKoninck, Greenwood Community Schools superintendent, said this was not an uncommon occurrence. “It is not an uncommon occurrence for multiple students to be served the alternate lunch on any given day,” he said. “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,”
It is clear that the staff were not discreet in this case. What’s more, it was due to a fault in school policy that Anya did not have enough credit. Her family would have topped up her account if they had known it was getting low. What’s more, the 6-year-old’s “walk of shame” was humiliating.
However, her school has doubled down on the policy and has not apologized for their administrative mistake nor their humiliation of a child. “Starting Monday 5/13/2019 we are no longer allowing any Café accounts to go into the negative,” the note from Southwest Elementary School reads. “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.”