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Letter: Pulling trays is bullying

Some things are puzzling me about this business of depriving children of the regular lunch for lack of funds.

My wife and I are retired educators who worked for the Willmar Schools. The practice of pulling student lunches started long before I retired in 2003 and was still clearly in practice when my wife left the system less than two years ago. Every employee who has stepped into a lunchroom was aware of the practice. So if district officials were comfortable with the practice, why the apparent need to hide the information on the Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid survey?

The explanation of the practice keeps shifting. No, we don’t. Yes, we do but only rarely. But teachers and staff often help pay. According to my wife, teachers were discouraged from paying. She also had an incident a few years ago where one of her kindergarteners was upset after witnessing a student being deprived of the regular lunch. (Yes, a five-and-a-half-year-old knew the practice to be wrong.) The child’s mom brought money to school to help avoid further incidents.

The practice does meet the definition of bullying. And the practice meets that definition whether the child is refused a lunch or whether a sandwich is substituted. The embarrassment stems from being singled out and made to feel unworthy.

How can this situation be justified by the fact that it is only used infrequently when the reality is that lunchroom staff daily prepare a stack of sandwiches to dole out to children with low funds? Isn’t a single incident of deliberately denigrating a child one too many?

Where is the logic that throwing away a child’s food saves the district money?

Why are lunchroom staff privy to a family’s financial situation? Shouldn’t the business office be the financial police?

Intelligent people can certainly come up with a better solution to this problem.

Thank you, Maddie, for highlighting a practice that should never have been put in place.

Dr. Ed Downey