Six-Year-Old Made to Do the 'Walk of Shame' Over Not Being Able to Pay for $2.25 Lunch

News 8

Bullying has become a huge issue in schools, but now it appears a new problem is coming to the forefront: lunch shaming.

Students are being refused food or often served a lesser, more basic meal if their parents have fallen behind on their accounts, and it’s leading to kids being singled out and teased by classmates. Last week, Indiana kindergartner Anya Howard found this out the hard way.

  • The 6-year-old was told to return her tray of hot food by a cafeteria aide, who said the girl didn’t have enough funds in her account to buy the $2.25 lunch.

    The aide then sent Anya and another student -- in front of about 20 of classmates -- to the back of the lunch line and told them to wait for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead.

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  • “They were laughing at us,” Anya said of her classmates, who saw what had happened were making comments to her and the other student.

    Anya said she didn't know how to respond to her giggling classmates, and now her grandfather is speaking out about his granddaughter’s “lunch shaming.” As a former teacher, he demands the district administrators review their cafeteria policies.

  • "When she was talking to me about it, she was more than 'sad,'" Dwight Howard said. "I mean, that's embarrassing for a little 6-year-old.”

    Although the district’s policy is to issue payment reminders for lunch accounts that dip to $5, Howard, a former teacher, said the school had failed to notify the family that Anya’s account had dropped to only 10 cents.

  • "They waited until there was a dime left, denied her the opportunity to eat the lunch that she had [been served and tried to pay for] and then she had to go to the end of the line to wait for a PB&J," he said.

    A statement from a district official seems to indicate that the incident that involved Anya being denied lunch appears to follow standard procedure.

    "It is not an uncommon occurrence for multiple students to be served the alternate lunch on any given day," Kent DeKoninck, Greenwood Community Schools superintendent, said in an email sent to News 8.

    "Any time this happens, our staff looks to handle all of these as discreetly as possible. ... We do allow elementary students to charge two hot meals before receiving the alternate meal,” he said.

  • But according to Howard, the situation with Anya was not handled with discretion. He described the "cafeteria walk of shame" as unnecessary and humiliating.

    Since Anya’s incident, the district appears to have reversed its policy as outlined in a note that was attached to the payment reminder sent home to Anya’s parents.

  • The school said they would no longer allow children to receive a hot meal if their accounts were unpaid.

    "Starting Monday 5/13/2019 we are no longer allowing any Café accounts to go into the negative," the note from Southwest Elementary School reads. "If there is not enough money in your child's account to cover the entire meal, they will be receiving a peanut butter sandwich and a milk.”

    DeKoninck said that the Howard family had not contacted administrators directly. The school principal and the cafeteria worker involved have not commented publicly on the family’s complaint.

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