A New Mexico school "lunch shaming" law has been passed in an attempt to put an end to practices officials say embarrass children who owe lunch debts.
Lunch-shaming has become a form of humiliation for kids who can not afford school lunches. Michael Padilla, who grew up in foster homes and experienced shaming tactics as a child, said he introduced the bill because of his harrowing experience growing up. Further, all learning institutions in the state must champion efforts to educate families of students about federal lunch subsidies or the availability of cheaper options.
The New York Times has the story on New Mexico's Hunger-Free Students' Bill of Rights, which was signed into law by Governor Susana Martinez on Thursday. It also outlines procedures for schools to collect debts and helps families in signing up for federal free or reduced-price meal assistance.
The law came amid concern over reports that some schools across the country were forcing students to clean up after their peers and stamping the words "I need lunch money" on their arms to stigmatise poor children.
New Mexico is taking a step to make sure that children are not bullied by those who are there to educate them.
Essentially, the law protects students against retaliatory punishments or obligations inflicted on them in the event that they can not pay for a school lunch, according to The New York Times. Thank goodness they took care of me, but I had to do other things like mop the floor in the cafeteria.
Ramo emphasized that the bill would change the previously direct relationship between school-owed debts and students.
Jennifer Ramo, executive director of New Mexico Appleseed, an anti-poverty group that spearheaded the law, explained some of the reasoning behind the bill. But "lunch shaming" has been reported in one Utah elementary school as recently as 2014.
Some school employees reach into their own pockets to pay for meals.
New Mexico is not alone in dealing with school meal debt. Some have to wash tables; some have to wear special wristbands; others are told to throw away the food they couldn't pay for.
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