LITTLE ROCK (KATV) — An equal value lunch no matter what the student owes is being proposed by one Arkansas lawmaker.
Rep. Andy Davis, R-Little Rock, filed the hunger-free students' bill of rights aiming to stop the stigmatization of students.
"I can just remember when I was a kid and if anything happened in the lunchroom you know that singled you out or embarrassed you in front of all of your peers, particularly if it had anything to do with an issue at home, that's devastating to a young kid you know,” said Davis.
HB1356 would prohibit schools from serving different lunches to students who cannot afford lunch or have racked up debt.
"If everyone else is getting a slice of pizza and a couple of sides and you get a cheese sandwich, the other kids know why you're getting a cheese sandwich,” Davis added. “This is just another way of embarrassing the kid and stigmatizing them, so yeah you can't give them a different meal, you can't make them sit at a special table, you can't make them wear a bracelet or button or what have you."
While not all Arkansas schools are serving that cheese sandwich, the Arkansas Department of Education supports any measure that can help a student succeed.
"In some cases, they're offering alternate breakfast programs such as grab and go breakfast or second chance breakfast so if students come in late they still have an opportunity to get breakfast,” said ADE spokeswoman, Kim Friedman. “In some schools, students who qualify for reduced lunches, the school will pick up the students' copay or the students' portion of that lunch so that will help also and in some cases, schools are partnering with local nonprofits to help cover the costs of lunch charges."
This bill would still allow for districts to attempt to recoup lunch debts from parents, including helping them enroll the student in a free or reduced lunch program.
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