Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The parents of children at Uintah Elementary School in Salt Lake City, Utah, were horrified to learn that their children’s lunches were snatched away when the school realized that the children were behind in their lunch payments.
In New Jersey, the parents of an autistic child recently learned that the child’s school was taking away his lunches over past-due lunch payment balances.
The obvious solution here is to have the parents pay the $5 or $10 per child to bring the balances back to even and allow the children to eat lunch again. But there is more to this story than just some negative cafeteria balances.
These schools are serving the children lunches, then hunting the children down in the lunch room, snatching the lunches out from under their noses and then throwing the food away.
That is right. These schools are so insistent on making their points that they will serve the children and then throw the food away.
How about this: Instead of embarrassing these children in front of all of their friends and possibly alienating them from the rest of the student body, why not give the children letters to take home warning parents to pay up or the children will not be served the next day? How about these school administrators do their jobs and identify the children with account issues before the children are served. That is what any civilized society would do.
It is always in fashion to blame the parents for rebellious childrens’ behavior. For the most part, it is not out of line to expect parents to be responsible for what their children do. But how is a child going to feel about authority figures when school administrators are publicly embarrassing him or her because the school is unable to keep simple records?
When I first heard this story, I thought it was a joke. When I found out it was true, I wanted to blame the parents. After all, they are responsible for paying those cafeteria account balances. The schools send out letters and the parents are supposed to respond. But, in these cases, it didn’t happen that way. Instead, the parents ignored account notices and the kids were punished for it.
There is a huge difference between toughening kids up for the cruelty of the real world and just being incompetent and callous.
Before anyone freaks out, the kids were given fruit and milk as replacements. But that is not the point. Kids can be cruel and it does not take much for them to decide that they are going to alienate and ridicule other kids.
I was a big kid, so I took some flak from the other kids. It bothered me at first, but eventually I learned to just let it roll off my back. After all, it was my choice to be a big kid, so I learned to love the attention. Actually, I learned that if you show bullies that you love the attention, they stop bothering you.
But kids have no filters and the potential for ridicule is high when you have your lunch taken away because your parents didn’t pay the bill.
Kids have enough to worry about without thinking that the adults at school are out to get them. When they have problems at school, they may not feel like they can talk to their teachers about it. Everyone suffers when children suffer.
If you think I am overreacting, try asking a child in first or second grade what they would do if their friends had lunch taken away because they did not pay the bill. Some of you may be surprised at the sweet and innocent answers you will get from a child. But, for the most part, you would quickly learn how honest and brutal children can be.
It isn’t the job of a school to make education more difficult for children. When a school acts irresponsibly and blames children for things they have no control over, then the joy is gone and replaced by problems that may never go away.George N. Root III is a Lockport resident and a big kid at heart. His column is published every Wednesday and is probably not a big hit with the kids at Roy B. Kelley Elementary School. He can be firstname.lastname@example.org.