After parent outcry, Va. high school stops denying students lunch for unpaid debt

After parent outcry, Va. high school stops denying students lunch for unpaid debt
Under the old policy, if a high schooler didn't pay for three or more meals, they couldn't get any food until the debt was paid. (Source: {WBRC})

ROCKY MOUNT, Va (WDBJ/GRAY TV) - For years in Franklin County, high school students who had unpaid lunch debt were denied a meal. It’s a policy that’s long elicited complaints from students and parents alike.

"If a child's hungry, they're not going to learn," said one such parent, Sherry Scott.

That's why Scott, along with several dozen other parents, spent the last month pressing the Franklin County School Board to make a change. Monday, the board agreed, altering its rules.

Under the old policy, if a high schooler didn't pay for three or more meals, they couldn't get any food until the debt was paid. Under the new policy, high schoolers who don't qualify for reduced cost or free lunches, and who accrue $20 or more in lunch debt, will receive a sandwich and milk "until they bring in money or their bill is paid."

Parents will be notified daily by text, call and email when their student has a low or negative balance. If parents haven’t paid by the end of the year, the district will send multiple warnings before taking legal action or bringing in a collection agency.

In an email, School Board Chair Julie Nix said this change will be "giving our students a bit more leeway."

For Sherry Scott, the new policy is a step in the right direction. "It's my hope that we won't have any more problems," she said.

But Scott adds the district needs to make sure that students aren’t shamed by this process, or made to worry about their parents’ finances.

“It is not a burden that children should have to carry. They should be focused on school and school alone,” she said.

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