New Mexico bans schools from 'lunch shaming' students with no money

Essentially, the law protects students against retaliatory punishments or obligations inflicted on them in the event that they can not pay for a school lunch, according to The New York Times. Martinez hopes other states follow their lead. The bill applies to any public, private or religious school that also receives federal subsidies for students' breakfasts and lunches.

New Mexico is taking a step to make sure that children are not bullied by those who are there to educate them.

The New York Times reports that this is the first law in the country that's been written to combat lunch-money shaming.

Schools are no longer allowed to shame students who don't have lunch money or allowed to force them to do chores to pay their parents' lunch debts.

New Mexico's Hunger-Free Students' Bill of Rights is two-pronged on its merits. Michael Padilla, a Democrat, stated he introduced the bill because of his past in foster homes and undergoing similar degradation growing up.

"I made Mrs. Ortiz and Mrs. Jackson, our school lunch ladies, my best friends", he said. He says it was clear to the other students that he was "one of the poor kids".

In the case of New Mexico, the new law will still allow schools to penalize students in other ways, such as withholding a transcript or revoking parking passes for older students.

The Times points out that schools feel pressure to collect debts - which can run up to millions of dollars in some districts - because schools can't use federal funds to offset the costs, meaning they have to find the money elsewhere. Instead, it directs schools to work with parents in order to pay their debts or sign up for federal meal assistance. A Pittsburgh-area cafeteria worker made national news when she quit her job rather than deny hot lunches to students.

Crystal FitzSimons, director of school and out-of-school-time programs at the Food Research & Action Center, discussed how the new policy would effect New Mexico schools.

Some school employees reach into their own pockets to pay for meals.

Nonetheless, she said, "We have to separate the child from a debt they have no power to pay".

The Department of Agriculture now provides guidance after efforts to develop national standards failed in the U.S. Congress past year.

  • Patricia Jimenez