This post has been updated.
Montana City is the most affluent school district in Montana. Maybe that’s what makes this news especially alarming.
The affluent, small town of Montana City situated just south of Helena is proposing a new school lunch policy that has some parents outraged.
The Board of Trustees for the K-8 district is considering adopting a policy that will give students an ‘alternative meal’ when their lunch balance has accrued more than $100. For breakfast, the ‘alternative meal’ will consist of toast, peanut butter and either milk or juice. For lunch, students will be given a cheese sandwich, veggie sticks, fruit and milk as the ‘alternative meal.’
How horrifying. The purpose of this disturbing policy is to shame students and their parents into paying delinquent bills. Something all struggling families need [sarcasm]. What’s more is that students will continue to accrue debt while being served sub-par meals during the school day.
The proposed new policy would eliminate any sort of notification to parents through email, phone call or letter sent home explaining an outstanding balance for their child’s meals. The only way parents will be able to see if they owe anything is by going online. [See update]
So, now a child is being held responsible for their family’s financial situation. A concerned Montana City School parent drove the point home:
For parents like Lenik, the issue at hand is not about the money, or the amount that can accrue from students buying thing while in school; it’s the embarrassment that can come from students getting the ‘alternative meal.’
“If they are going to serve an alternate lunch that’s a cheese sandwich, students are going to know that kid, their parents didn’t pay their bills,” Lenik said.
And here’s Montana City School Superintendent Tony Kloker’s response to those concerns:
Kloker insisted the policy wouldn’t ‘lunch shame’ any student, as the school plans to give students the cheese sandwich discretely.
“It won’t be in the lunch room in front of everyone, where shaming can happen,” he explained.
Are you kidding us? Seriously?
Montana City School Superintendent Tony Kloker and the School Board are shrugging their responsibility to engage with the families they serve. Instead, they are stigmatizing children, embarrassing them in front of their peers, and denying them nutritious meals necessary for school performance. It’s barbaric.
Action will be taken on the proposed policy on March 8th.
If you’d like to let the school district know what you think about this misguided (and offensive) proposed policy, call 406-442-6779.
UPDATE: after some much deserved criticism, it looks like the Superintendent and School Board might be backing off (a bit) and launching a public relations campaign to counter the bad press.
Superintendent Kloker writes:
Additional solutions have already been brought to my attention that will be part of my recommendation to the school board. For example:
– Eliminate the alternate meal language from the draft policy.
– Add language to the draft policy to ensure every child has access to the same meal every day.
– Add language to the draft policy to make sure no fines are assessed to any family demonstrating a financial need.
– Add language to the draft policy to assess a fine after the $100 limit has been reached to parents that have the financial ability to pay.
You have to wonder if any of these “solutions” would have been incorporated if the Montana City School Board’s proposed policy hadn’t come under such intense scrutiny.