Montana City School Board, Superintendent Propose Shaming Families (through their kids)

This post has been updated.

Montana City is the most affluent school district in Montana. Maybe that’s what makes this news especially alarming.

KTVH reports:

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.

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37 Comments

    • If the parents refuse to pay the bill. Them this is an alternative. It is not shaming the child. Liberterds need to understand life is about being responsible

      • @Christine – Nice to see you have achieved a 4th grader ability of name calling. I have noticed that Republicans like you are always better than anybody else. Perhaps, we should just take the money from their parents and be done with it. Or, we could simply shoot the entire offending family. WAIT, let’s just put them in a gas chamber and get rid of them.

        My boss dropped my wages 40% after #45 was elected. Said because #45 was president and that he did not have to follow the law anymore. I started my own business in the same field as he was and he lost 75% of his customers to me because they liked my work better than his. Since Jan 20, 2017, he has permanently closed down. I now have another 15% of his customers now. I have no party.

        So, what derogatory name do you have for me? I destroyed a Republican’s business, with a family, To save my own sorry butt.

    • Straight from the Montana City School website instead of a pieced together news story creating negative press for all the hardworking employees and school board serving those kids.
      There’s more to the story–From Mr. Kloker, Superintendent

      Important point of clarification: The following quote that was recently reported by KTVH as news is not accurate: “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.” This is not true.

      Policy is a guiding principle to set direction for our organization. A procedure is a series of steps to be followed as a consistent and repetitive approach to accomplish an end result.

      If the proposed policy is adopted, the school’s procedure would be to continue to send notes home, email parents and/or make phone calls to inform parents of the balance on their child’s school food account. Although it’s not the only option, parents may access EZSchoolPay.com to monitor and pay for lunches. Please visit our website or contact the school if you would like assistance in setting this up. The school will continue to work with the parents/guardians to make them aware of the status of their account.

      We are ALL responsible for making sure our children eat lunch. To know Montana City School is to know that our kids are at the forefront of our decision-making and will continue to be so.

      The alternate lunch in the proposed policy had the example of a cheese sandwich. However, just because the policy gives an example of a cheese sandwich, it doesn’t mean our procedure will be to serve that as the only option. If the Board keeps the option to provide an alternate meal, it will be a meal that meets the USDA nutrition guidelines, looks like it was prepared as a cold lunch coming from home, and will include a sandwich such as meat and cheese on whole grain bread, fresh veggie sticks, fruit and milk. The key factor is that it will be a meal that costs the district less than the typical meal being served and, more importantly, will be provided to the student as a last resort and given to them in a very discreet, “student friendly” manner.

      We must be fiscally responsible to our taxpayers, but not at the expense of our children’s pride and confidence. The district was $13,000 in debt in our lunch fund at the end of last year. The money we collect is truly used to purchase the groceries to make the meals and feed the students. There needs to be a balance of responsibility, as well as an understanding of individual family needs. That is why other language in the proposed policy provides opportunities for the school to work with families who have a financial need.

      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.

      If you have other solutions you would like the Board to consider, please bring them to my attention to share with the Board or attend the meeting on March 8. As always, we welcome the input and want to reinforce this is just DRAFT language provided by the Montana School Boards Association.

      The final policy adopted by your elected officials, will be based on what is best for the students attending your Montana City School!

  1. Get your facts straight and tell the whole story! In fact, come the to the public school meeting March 8 at 6:30 at Montana City School.

    • As if being present in school and not present at lunch would not make it obvious that the student is receiving a discreet cheese sandwich?

      • Then these parents need to pay their bill, it’s the parents who are shaming their own children by making it look like they are too poor to pay their school lunch bill!! There are programs for poor people, but I doubt that is the case just negligence on their part then they are trying to put the blame on Me. Kloker who is trying to do the best he can do that children do not have to go without!!! Shame is on you parents!!! What you’re doing is awful!! You are to blame!! Grow up and take responsibility for your debts!!

    • Are you kidding me? I have to pay my bills in a timely manner. Why don’t you? This isn’t an administration issue! It’s a responsibility issue! I have to pay my bills. Why, please why don’t you think you need too?! Oh wait, did you forget to pay for your Bahama vacation?! Please look in the mirror. This is a tragedy!

  2. The superintendent could take a cut in pay and assist the lunch program.
    Also, let parents know the amount due before it hits $100. Let them know ASAP. No free and reduced meals, evidently Montana City is not that elite.

  3. Hes is a piece of shit to seperate and segragate kids of all people kids lets lay him off so he knows how it feels to walk in there shoes.i cant believe this man even lives in montana.God said we are all created equal.this man doesnt think so.to punish kids with the food they eat.i tought my kids to share with every one and we were poor as poor as they get and you would have me in your office every day if you did that to my kids.or any other kids. I cant believe i read that this morning you shoud be fired you might have an education but you are sure stupid in the way your brain works…get rid of him put some one in his place that loves all kids 2017 and he thinks like this havent evolved past cave man.

  4. As a former elementary school counselor in Montana schools for 21 years, I thank you for feeding your children. I am very well aware that not all schools do this. Please do the math. It could not be that cost effective to have those precious lunch ladies make two meals even day. I ask, how much of your decision is about money and how much is about..something else?

    • Amen I’m sure its not the money. Sounds like a personal issue
      To me. This should have been resolved between the parents and the Superintendent and never involved the kids. Having served on a school board I can tell you your board members will not appreciate the negative feedback or publicity they are getting from this. It doesn’t give those of us living in the district a very good feeling about the way things are being handled.

  5. Wow how low can a selfish ignorant human being go…. the kids in this world should be are first priority…. No money should ever stop the well being of any child… ignorance n greed

  6. This is not a new concept. I live in Washington state. Children often forget to tell their parents they need lunch money. The cheese sandwich is served after 2-3 requests to pay their balance, then the child is served a cheese sandwich. This has happened to my son several times. This usually helps him to remember to let me know he needs more money. Also, as soon as the account goes below balance, they have a stamp that says ” I need lunch money”. This has been very helpful since my son frequently forgets to tell me. Automatic email notifications when the balance goes to 0 would be helpful.

    • ‘Children often forget to tell their parents they need lunch money.’ ‘This has happened to my son several times. This usually helps him to remember to let me know he needs more money.’ ‘This has been very helpful since my son frequently forgets to tell me.’

      WHAT on earth ??? Where is YOUR responsibility for your son, and his welfare ? What about YOU REMEMBERING to pay? I am beyond disgusted you put remembering to pay ON A CHILD !

  7. Better yet, since they propose bringing the child into this, don’t feel them at all once their balance is above $100! How ridiculous!

    • Yep parents do know that is coming much before they get $100 behind. Shame on them to put thier kid into this conflict. I agree parents need to be just that… Parents and providers to thier children!

  8. There surely must be money somewhere in the state coffers to feed the needy . Regardless of the outcome these children must be the number one priority .PERIOD . These are tactics used in Nazi Germany . Wake the hell up and do your duty.

  9. When I was in school, even in the San Francisco Bay Area, attending even a high prestigious school, the PTA did fundraisers for the less fortunate children to raise money for this exact reason. Why is the community not troubleshooting the issue before it got to this situation. Parents, you are equally responsible if you don’t give support to your school and all the children attending.

  10. As a parent at Montana City that participates in the hot lunch program on Montana City I can tell you that there is adequate notification sent out when balances get low. There are also government subsidized meals available for low income families. This is about people not paying their bills. Get your facts straight.

  11. You all need to get your facts straight!! One there will still be commutation with the parents. Parents are have multiple ways to pay for thier children’s meals. If the family is having financial trouble then there are programs to assist!

    I would like to know what business would let u acrue a debt of $100 and still feed you?

    At what point do stop pointing fingers and start taking responsibility! If u are concerned about your kid feeling “lunch shamed” then pay your bill!! If you can’t do that then make them a lunch!!

  12. If the parents are that poor, is there not a “free lunch program” through the State? I cannot imagine letting my kid’s lunch bill get that high. Sounds like the parent’s are not responding to phone calls or texts, so it has come down to this. At least they are feeding the kids!

  13. Last time I checked family income by zip code, Montana City was number 1 in state. When I was in grade school my dad was a logger and it got tight in winter because no work. I got the cheese and remember it sixty five years later. Come on Montana City. Figure it out.

  14. I am a retired teacher. Children learn better while properly fed. Listen, I know collecting lunch money can be a hassle, but giving alternative meals is not the answer. I always said I would resign or take less money to provide money for school lunches. Please take the loss of lunch money as a price of running a school district.

  15. It’s not a kid’s fault who their parents are … really? The parents are so ‘entitled’ they’re actually complaining about this instead of paying their bills? As stated in a prior comment .. MT City residents make enough money per household to never be in the red on this one … sick it up you sissies and provide for your kids!

  16. I have just one question for ADULTS…..would you go to a restaurant and eat,without paying?? It’s NO different to send your children to eat without paying! With the exception of choices and school lunches cheaper, they still COST your school to make, or have available! Think about what your asking and what REAL LIFE is like! LIFE doesn’t GIVE ME FREE ANYTHING!!!

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