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Law could change how ELC deals with unpaid meals

April 28, 2018
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

Gov. Reynolds signed into law a bill that, among other things, prohibits what has come to be known as "lunch shaming." Viral videos show some schools across the nation that throw away a student's meal in the lunch line, put stickers and stamps on their arms that say, "I need lunch money," compel the student to do chores in order to eat lunch, and other measures like publishing lists, designating separate seating areas, or having the students wear wristbands. Those schools say the measures are necessary to avoid lunch account debt.

The new law allows schools to claim lottery winnings or state tax refunds from parents who have school lunch debt.

Estherville Lincoln Central superintendent Tara Paul said, "Our parents have done a great job in paying off owed debt, and we allow families to charge up to $25 or 10 meals before sending lunches from home."

Last year, the student debt for ELC was close to $40,000.

Paul said the school contacts parents about lunch balances beginning when their family account reaches $10 and then one that notifies them when they are negative.

The new law also allows schools to accept private donations to cover those meals.

Paul said, "We have had people donate to specific student debt or make donations to specific student accounts. We have never had anyone write a blanket donation just to offset general student debt."

The bill cleared the state House and Senate unanimously. The handful of legislators who publicly remarked on the bill pointed out it's not the fault of the child if the parent fails to pay for their school lunch.



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