The Department of Education says parents have to pay up or run the risk of letting their kids go hungry in school.
On Tuesday, KHON2 reported that two children at Solomon Elementary School were denied lunch after the school says their account had a negative balance.
The story drew a lot of angry reaction from our viewers, so we asked DOE officials how they justified not letting a child eat.
An assistant superintendent with the DOE says each school is allowed to deal with the problem in their own way, but parents are given multiple warnings before taking that drastic step of denying kids their lunch.
Assistant superintendent Dann Carlson said it’s a problem in many schools statewide.
Parents don’t keep up with paying for their children’s school lunch so their accounts stay in the negative multiple times. It’s essentially the school giving parents a loan and if the parents don’t pay up, the school needs to cover that cost.
“When you start compounding that out over a few hundred, you can see where the school suddenly becomes liable for some major expenses,” he said.
Carlson says at Solomon Elementary, there were as many as 200 students whose accounts were negative this year. So toward the end of the year, the principal had to put her foot down and it’s a hard decision many principals have to make.
“You’re always going to have a situation where the principal has to make a hard decision of possibly not feeding the child?” KHON2 asked.
“Exactly. Hats off to the principals. Hats off to Solomon Elementary School. I think they did what was fiscally responsible,” Carlson said.
Each school is allowed to deal with this problem in their own way, so more than likely it could happen again where a student will go through the day without getting fed.
But Carlson says all schools will give multiple warnings before that happens. The students will be given a note and the school will call the parents.
But parents continue to ignore the warnings.
“Don’t you think that’s a problem too?” KHON2 asked.
“I do, but I don’t know what else we can do other than personally visiting each home. We’re utilizing the technology that we have,” Carlson said.
Carslon says the state is trying to improve the technology in other ways by working on a system that would allow parents to pay and check their balance online, but that it still years away from happening.