The Governor has signed into law a bill preventing practices that shamed students in school, if they could not pay their lunch debt. Iowa has become the ninth state to pass a law protecting children under these circumstances, and lawmakers in Louisiana and Maine are currently considering bills similar to Iowa’s legislation.
Under the bill, the following actions are no longer being allowed as these actions humiliate or “shame” a student because they cannot pay for the meal:
- Requiring the student to consume the meal at a table set aside for students who owe a meal debt.
- Have a student discard a meal after it has been served.
- Require a student to wear a wrist band, hand stamp, or other identifying marks, or do chores or work to pay for their meal.
- Denying participation in afterschool programs or other extracurricular activities.
Once a year schools are currently required to offer assistance to parents or guardians in filling out Free and Reduced-Priced Lunch forms. Due to changing economic circumstances, this would now be required twice a year.
Some schools have set up private accounts and accept donations to help pay for school lunch debt. The bill prevents the school from using those funds for another purpose, which has also happened in Iowa.