Bill aims to eliminate ‘lunch shaming’ for students with school lunch debt in ND

School lunches
School lunches(KFYR)
Published: Jan. 31, 2023 at 1:40 PM CST
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - The House Education Committee heard a bill Monday afternoon aimed at protecting students in North Dakota who have unpaid school lunch debt.

House Bill 1494 would create a new chapter in the North Dakota Century Code relating to school meal policies. The bill proposes that a school may not deny a meal or serve an alternative meal to a student with an unpaid meal balance, or without funds to pay for a meal.

Schools would be prohibited from identifying or stigmatizing a student who receives free/reduced-price lunches, full-price lunches, or a meal that the child can’t pay for. This includes the use of tokens, stickers, stamps, or placing the child’s name on a published list of students with meal debt.

House Bill 1494 would prevent a school from limiting a student’s participation in any school activities, graduation ceremonies, field trips, athletics, activity clubs, or other extracurricular activities or access to materials, technology, or other items provided to students.

A school also may not require a student to provide services or perform work, including cleaning duties or chores, to pay for school meals debt.

A school may send a sealed letter home with a child to deliver to a parent or guardian, but the letter may not be distributed in a manner that stigmatizes the child. Also listed in the bill: a school cannot use a collections agency to collect unpaid school meals debt and may not charge or collect fees/additional costs associated with school meals debt.

Twelve representatives introduced the bill, including those from Grand Forks, Fargo, West Fargo, Hillsboro, Bismarck and Williston.