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4-Year Old Studetn Denied A Meal at School?

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March 25 2015

Don’t punish children for their parent’s mistakes


I work as a substitute teacher in a Central Texas school district, I currently teach at the elementary school level. At breakfast time recently, I witnessed a truly sad situation -- one of my 4-year-olds held her tray up to the cashier to receive her meal, and what she got in return was an emphatic “You have no money!” followed by the removal of her tray.  I live by my debit card and on this day I had absolutely no cash on me or I would have paid the $1.50 for the child's meal.  The student then sat at the table assigned to her class and was inconsolable for the next twenty minutes, while her classmates enjoyed their breakfast meals. This seems like cruelty on the part of the cashier, but sadly, she was just following school district policy. There is a law on the books that requires any Texas school district in which students use a prepaid meal card or account to purchase school meals, to have a grace period during which students continue receiving meals even after their accounts are depleted. This is a good law, as school financial matters are adult business and should not result in a child going hungry.

However, it fails our children in one area: each district is allowed to determine how long this grace period is, and, it turns out, it doesn’t have to apply to all meals offered at school. This was an error on the legislators’ part, and it must be changed to spare kids from such cruel embarrassment. Please join me in calling on the Texas legislature to amend the law to require all districts to continue providing all meals to students, regardless of account balance. Sadly, the district I am teaching in chose to adopt a one-lunch grace period, meaning they will provide one lunch after a child’s account is depleted. As for breakfast and other meals provided by the school, the student gets nothing. This is ridiculous. Studies have proven that children cannot learn when they are hungry, and everyone knows that suffering that kind of embarrassment in a school setting can be terribly upsetting for a child.

I am not asking that parents and caretakers be absolved of their financial obligations. But repayment can be worked out among adults. Children are not the guilty parties in this scenario, and they should not be punished with hunger for mistakes their parents make. This petition requests that the law be amended so that children in schools that use prepaid cards or accounts to purchase meals receive uninterrupted access to all meals served at the school, regardless of their account balance.