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Editorial: Kudos for end of the tray-pulling policy in Willmar

The good news in the Willmar School District this week is the end of the practice of pulling trays from students who have empty lunch accounts.

School officials at first said the practice did not occur in Willmar Schools.

Kudos to a brave high school student, who witnessed a fellow student’s lunch being removed, so she bought a lunch for the young man. Then the student spoke up publicly in a letter to the editor in the West Central Tribune stating that the traypulling practice actually did occur in Willmar.

Then school officials acknowledged the tray-pulling policy was in place — but noted it had occurred only eight times so far this year in Willmar. School officials continued to defend the policy.

Kudos to the strong public response — directly to school officials and on social media — criticizing the tray-pulling policy. Parents spoke of their kids’ lunches being pulled. Students spoke of their trays being pulled. Citizens spoke of their outrage at students being embarrassed publicly by having lunch trays pulled.

Willmar School Board President Mike Carlson announced Wednesday on the West Central Tribune’s Facebook page that the tray-pulling policy had ended.

Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard called it “common sense” to make the policy modification. “Mom and dad still have to pay, but the young person doesn’t.”

We agree and commend the Willmar Schools for making the policy change because it puts kids first regardless of the reason for an empty lunch account.

School officials have committed to monitoring students’ lunch accounts and using the Cardinal Care Fund to cover problem accounts until a positive balance can be restored. The public may contribute to the fund by sending a check to Willmar Public Schools, Attention: Food Service, 611 First St. S.W., Willmar MN 56201 or by calling 320-231-8526.

It is disappointing that it took longer than two weeks for Willmar Schools to recognize the harshness of its policy, but we certainly commend the end of the tray-pulling policy.

The public should commend school officials for this change, which the Tribune suggested Wednesday in social media stating, “If you want to praise the school board for this change, here’s the link to their (public school board email addresses):”

What is most disappointing that one school member complained later about the newspaper’s sharing of the Willmar School Board’s contact page link. Why would any school official be concerned about their public, school-provided email address being publicized unless they do not want to hear from citizens or students?

So in the spirit of open government, below are the Willmar School Board members’ email addresses. We encourage the public to contact them with compliments and/or concerns at anytime.

Willmar School Board email contacts

Here are the email address for Willmar School board members.

Mike Carlson, Chair,

Liz Van Der Bill, Vice-Chair,

Mike Reynolds, Treasurer,

Jackie Saulsbury, Clerk,

Nate Streed, Director,

Linda Mathiassen, Director,

Laura Warne, Director,