Person High School apologizes for punishing students with unpaid cafeteria bills

Posted May 10

— Some parents were outraged when Person High School sent home a note with students stating students with unpaid balances would be punished.

Parent Tony Dollar said he was shocked when he read the notice Tuesday after finding out his stepson owed a dollar and some change on his school lunch account at school.

"In a form, they say there is zero tolerance for bullying but it seems like the school is actually bullying the child saying 'You need to pay us this money, you need to pay us this money,' and it's not their responsibility," he said.

For underclassman, the notice said they would serve detention until the debt was paid, and for seniors, the notice said if they didn't pay, they wouldn't be able to go to senior cook-out or walk at graduation.

"(My stepson) sent me a text saying that he got this notice from the cafeteria stating that he needed to bring in money by tomorrow or he was going to have detention," Dollar said.

The assistant superintendent said this was not a district decision, and the notice was sent directly from the school.

"Punishing a child for something a parent has done, or lack of doing, I think is kind of ridiculous," Dollar said.

Dollar reached out to the principal. He said the school confirmed what was stated on the slip.

"Their reasoning was, because they had so many students that owed a balance, that they were trying to get this money by the end of the year," he said.

Wednesday the district spoke out against what happened. The assistant superintendent said the notice was not in line with the district's policies, and they have decided to send out a retraction and apology.

"When you're talking finances, you need to leave the student out of it. You need to go directly to the parent via phone call, but keep the student out of it," Dollar said.

Last month, New Mexico became the first U.S. state to ban lunch money shaming, when children are denied food for overdue lunch accounts. The new law applies to all schools that receive federal money for lunch programs.


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  • Teddy Fowler May 11, 11:27 a.m.
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    Obviously the blame goes to the parents... they have responsibilities that must be met... not letting them walk at graduation seems reasonable to me....

  • Ed Brown May 11, 6:36 a.m.
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    I agree that the parents should pay their bills, but putting kids in detention is not the answer. Kids suffer enough for the sins of their parents in this world. At my kids' school, kids with no money in their accounts were limited to vegetables only, which I think is perfectly OK because it encourages healthy eating habits while teaching that same lesson about paying one's bills.

  • Nathaniel Lincoln May 10, 9:58 p.m.
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    Pay what you owe . There is no story here

  • Kenneth Jones May 10, 9:26 p.m.
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    End of the school year. Time to pay up...

  • Vera McGraw May 10, 8:00 p.m.
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    is there not a fund to donate to the county schools to help pay for these meals, esp for low income???

  • Vera McGraw May 10, 7:58 p.m.
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  • Ben Hill May 10, 7:48 p.m.
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    Mr. Dollar (ironic) needs to learn the definition of bullying. This is called "paying what you owe". It's not that different from a university withholding a diploma until outstanding bills are paid. Suck it up and pay the dollar and change without crying.

    This is also a good life lesson for the student, try not paying your bills as an adult and watch the company tack on late charges and cut services.