Senator Madden Introduces Legislation to Protect Children From Retaliation For School Lunch Arrears

Senator Madden introduced legislation this summer that would prohibit a school district from retaliating against a child for school breakfast or lunch arrears. As it stands, schools can prevent children from participating in school events and extracurricular activities due to money owed for school meals. These actions serve only to harm children and to ostracize them from their classmates.

Children should not be targets in a school district’s efforts to collect owed debts. When students are singled out by prohibiting participation in school functions and activities, they are then vulnerable to internal and external distress. This distress could be in the form of bullying, anxiety, or missed opportunities. This can take an immeasurable toll on a child’s social and mental development. Using a child as a tool to collect arrears is simply wrong.

Additionally, the bill, S2886, would further prohibit schools from requiring students to wear a wristband or hand stamp that would identify them as being in arrears, and schools would also not be permitted to require a student to do chores or other work to pay for arrearages.

This bill would require schools to communicate directly with parents to collect money owed. Schools would be permitted to send a student home with a letter addressed to his or her parent(s) regarding the matter, but no additional action could be taken to stigmatize a student.