A Pennsylvania State Senator introduced new legislation Wednesday that would prohibit ‘lunch shaming’ – a practice used by some school administrators that singles out students with overdue meal bills.
Senator Jay Costa brought Senate Bill 709 to the floor on Wednesday, which requires school districts to serve meals to all children and puts a process in place for schools to work with families who may be in need of help.
The bill also prohibits schools from humiliating children in any way if their family owes money, including wristbands or handstamps. SB 709 also requires districts to find better methods of notifying parents of the situation.
“These reports of schools consciously making the choice to bully children whose families are struggling to pay for school lunches is disturbing,” Costa said. “When did it become okay for children to be publicly shamed for something over which they have no control? We need to be supporting these families and providing assistance, not shaming their children.”
The measure requires school districts to introduce policies to determine if children are eligible for free or reduced price meals, and to determine if further intervention is necessary.
“This legislation sets the bar where it should have always been, preventing anyone from ever singling a child out for any reason, especially their ability to pay for lunch,” Costa said. “Our children are our most valuable resource. We must treat them as such and show respect for the families at home supporting them.”
This legislation follows a similar push at the federal level— U.S. Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania joined his colleagues on Tuesday in introducing a bill to prohibit schools from ‘lunch shaming.’
“I am confident that this legislation will do its part to stop students suffering from humiliation for circumstances outside of their control,” Casey said. “This is bullying and I am saddened that we have to write legislation to ensure it ends.”