Readers Respond: Selfish Parents

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - April 05, 2006

In my column regarding school lunches, “What Kind Of Parents Are These,” in the March 22 issue of MidWeek, I asked for your reaction to children in public schools who are relegated to a minimalist lunch if their parents do not provide a homemade lunch or pay for the school lunch program. I appreciate all who took the time to respond. Here are some of your thoughts:

* “A simple (but maybe expensive) solution is to provide all students with free meals in school.”

* “The school should send a notice home with the student asking the parent to mail a check for each student’s monthly lunch money. If the entire amount is not used up in the current month, the next statement will reflect the credit and the bill will be less.”

* “Several years ago, some parent volunteers at our elementary school purchased (using our own funds) peanut butter, jelly and bread and kept it in the volunteer coordinator’s office. When kids came to the cafeteria with no lunch or money, we would provide a sandwich and water. This was effective for several months, until the health department informed us that we weren’t allowed to do this. Most elementary schools assign cafeteria duty to students on a rotation basis. The kids help by passing out milk, cleaning tables, etc. ... In return, they receive a free lunch that day. Let’s take that a step further. When students come to school with no lunch/money, they will be given a school lunch. In return, the PARENT must take one day of cafeteria duty. If the parent is the one who is singled out, rather than the child, perhaps they will make sure their children have lunch on a daily basis.”

* “The solution is quite simple. First: Give a very serious warning to the parents. Making sure they are aware of the consequence. Second: Parents should be reported to CPS. After all, this is a form of child neglect/abuse. If parents are doing this in the eyes of the public, who’s to say they are not neglecting their kids in the privacy of their own home? The real issue is, ‘Why aren’t the schools just going ahead and feeding these kids? The real issue is why are we allowing these parents to continue to neglect their children?’”

* “My family moved here from California in August 2005. I swore not to be one of the malihini who comes to Hawaii and says all of the time, ‘Change this or that to be like the mainland.’ With respect to school lunch, in California the parents would prepay the children’s lunch cards. There was never losing, stealing or forgetting of the cash. In addition, if your card ran out of money, the child still received a lunch, a note went home addressing the negative balance, and the lunch was paid back.”

* “Get the police to arrest da parent in a public place to embarrass da bugga. Book da guy den sentence da bugga to stand on the side of one busy road wit a sign dat says ‘Deadbeat Parent’ or something like dat.”

Aside from the opinions and suggestions, some had firsthand experiences:

* “I worked in a school office for nine years and I dealt with students and lunch loans on a daily basis. You’re right when you said that the only loser is the child. Sometimes, school lunch is the only decent meal the student will have all day. I think the problem stems from the home. The students who are consistently sent to school without lunch money are the same ones who do not turn in their homework, field trip money, permission slips and forms ... Some parents didn’t seem to make the school a priority, and the students were left to fend for themselves ...”

Finally: * “I am a food service worker at an elementary school here in Hawaii. We haven’t had much of a problem with loans so far ... The situation is a tough one. Yes, we do throw out food sometimes, and I personally would never let a child go hungry at my school, even though I might have to face disciplinary action from my manager and administration. When I first started at the kitchen, I used to feel sorry for the children who had no juice money, so I started paying for the kids with no money. Before I knew it, I was spending $5-$10 a day, and found out that kids were telling other kids that I would buy them juice and they would save their money and let me pay ... It is shocking to see parents of kids on the free/reduce program driving Beemers and Hummers, and the mothers with more Hawaii bracelets that I could ever wish to have ...”

The Board of Education must act. Children should not be subjected to hunger and humiliation at school for any reason. Establish a policy that provides school lunches to all children. And if there are differences between the parent and the administrator, they must rectify their issues like adults - not children.

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